Everyone is excited about the possibility of a manned mission to Mars. There is even speculation that the first humans will land on Mars in the 2030s. Well! That could be true. But it is actually harder than it looks. A manned mission to Mars could remain a pipe dream considering current technology and political trends, especially in the United States.
There are also several problems over which we have no control. This often involves our bodies and the conditions on Mars itself. It seems like Mars is out to kill the first humans who set foot on it—an opinion shared by several people including Elon Musk, who may revolutionize space travel. Nevertheless, we will keep our fingers crossed.
NASA cannot afford a manned mission to Mars. This was revealed in July 2017 when William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, revealed that the agency does not receive enough funding from the US government to make NASA’s first Mars landing scheduled for the 2030s realistic.
NASA, private space agencies, and nonprofits give vastly different figures when estimating the cost of a manned mission to Mars. This ranges from $1 trillion spread over 25 years (as proposed by the nonprofit Mars Institute) to $100 billion spread over 30–40 years (as proposed by NASA). However, NASA cannot afford their estimate.
NASA received $19.5 billion in funding for the 2017 fiscal year. That amount seems like a lot until we realize that the agency splits this money between several space missions, programs, and research. Considering current trends, NASA’s funding drought is unlikely to end anytime soon. Its budget has only grown by a measly 2 percent a year within the past few years.
Humans are social creatures and often require interaction. Researchers fear this could become a problem during an expedition to Mars. A few years ago, researchers had a group of people live in an isolated habitat in the Arizona desert for a considerable period of time.
They noted that some participants soon suffered from depression and mood swings. Some also became hostile and mostly did not talk to each other for 18 months. Their few interactions were limited to brief conversations about running the facility. Although the team later had psychologists to help them, astronauts on Mars will not have the same privilege.
The results of this test have made some researchers question future plans to send just two astronauts to Mars in a single spacecraft. The astronauts will probably become bored, depressed, and could even start to dislike each other, which could lead to their doom. However, some researchers think this is unlikely to happen if the two astronauts have compatible personalities.