Human Spaceflight

October 16, 2009 • Volume 19, Issue 36
Are missions to the Moon and Mars feasible?
By Thomas J. Billitteri


Ares I rocket - proposed space exploration program (NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center)
An artist's rendering shows an Ares I rocket, part of the $80 billion Constellation space exploration program designed to eventually travel to Mars. The program is under review by the Obama administration (NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center)

NASA's human spaceflight program is stuck in low orbit, held back by budget constraints, political bickering, competing visions and daunting technical challenges. A White House-commissioned panel has warned that the program is on an “unsustainable trajectory” because of funding limitations, and plans to build a new generation of rockets, return to the Moon and eventually go to Mars are under intense scrutiny. Meanwhile, the impending termination of the Space Shuttle could leave a seven-year gap during which the United States could have to rely on Russia to ferry astronauts to space. The future of NASA's human spaceflight program — including whether to build a lunar settlement — rests heavily on whether the Obama administration presses for more space funding. Meanwhile, private companies are working to build rockets of their own. Entrepreneurs hope to transport not only cargo into space but astronauts too. At the same time, private operators are gearing up for an emerging business taking wealthy space tourists into orbit.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Space Exploration
Jul. 23, 2021  Space Exploration
Feb. 21, 2020  The Mars Mission
Aug. 04, 2017  New Space Race
Jun. 20, 2014  Search for Life On New Planets
Feb. 24, 2012  Space Program
Aug. 16, 2011  Weapons in Space
Oct. 16, 2009  Human Spaceflight
May 23, 2003  NASA's Future
Jul. 23, 1999  New Challenges in Space
Apr. 25, 1997  Space Program's Future
Dec. 24, 1993  Space Program's Future
Mar. 29, 1991  Uncertain Future for Man in Space
Jul. 31, 1987  Space Race
Feb. 07, 1986  Space Decisions after Challenger
Feb. 18, 1983  American Options in Space
Nov. 10, 1978  Changing U.S. Space Policy
Jul. 04, 1975  Cooperation in Space
Mar. 15, 1972  Space Shuttle Controversy
Oct. 01, 1969  Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs
Nov. 13, 1968  Goals in Space
Jun. 29, 1966  Future of Space Exploration
May 08, 1963  Moon Race Controversy
Jun. 27, 1962  Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Nov. 01, 1961  Space Exploration
Dec. 09, 1959  National Space Policy
Feb. 19, 1958  Control of Outer Space
Space Sciences and Exploration