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The Mars Mission

- February 21, 2020
Can NASA overcome all the challenges?
Featured Report

NASA has its sights set on landing astronauts on Mars in the 2030s, the long-term goal of its Artemis program. As a first step, the space agency is scrambling to meet a White House-imposed deadline of 2024 for returning astronauts to the moon. The Trump administration wants to achieve new space milestones ahead of other countries, including China — but congressional Democrats question whether the 2024 deadline is realistic, especially when NASA's deep-space rocket is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. In addition, some analysts say, China's Mars goals are too far in the future to be competitive with NASA. Private companies such as SpaceX are planning their own Mars missions, even as they work with NASA to solve the technical challenges of deep-space travel, including how to protect astronauts from radiation. Some experts cite such dangers in arguing that exploration of Mars and other planets is best left to robots, but others say human explorers have a unique significance in space exploration.

Finding Partners

Public Support

1600s–1800sAstronomers using primitive telescopes detect Mars' major geographical features.
1800s–1900sSome scientists speculate that Mars may harbor intelligent life.
1900s–2000sThe United States and Soviet Union launch orbiters, landers and rovers toward Mars.
2000s–PresentCommercial spaceflight industry expands as NASA's exploration agenda changes with each administration.

Are robots a better choice than humans to explore Mars and other deep-space destinations?


Don Lincoln
Senior Scientist, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.


Janet Ivey , Chris Carberry
President, Explore Mars Inc., and CEO, Explore Mars Inc..


Presidential Primaries
Does the system produce the strongest nominees?
Hidden Money
Can governments rein in tax evaders?
The New Arms Race
Are new treaties needed to control modern nuclear weapons?


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