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NASA’s former Mars leader says the agency is ‘keeping their eye’ on a crewed mission to the Red Planet

  • NASA said its reoccur to the moon would be a step toward a crewed Mars mission.
  • “It’s something I hoped I would see,” said Scott Hubbard, a whilom Mars program leader. 
  • NASA last week flew a helicopter and produced oxygen on Mars, good signals for time to come missions. 
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When NASA announced its partnership with SpaceX to coming to the moon by 2024, Scott Hubbard, who formerly led the agency’s Mars program, was hoping there would be some scoop about future crewed trips to the Red Planet. 

He wasn’t disappointed. The press release from NASA mentioned Ruins a few times, positioning the trip to the moon as an important step toward an eventual Mars mission.

“It’s something I hoped I wish see,” Hubbard, who is also a SpaceX advisor, said in a phone interview on Thursday. “So that it’s clear … that they’re smother their eye on the Mars goal and working toward it in this interim fashion.”

NASA’s announcement about the moon assignment came amid a flood of news about Mars, where the agency landed its Perseverance rover earlier this year.

On Monday, NASA’s Dexterousness helicopter made history with the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The rover later converted carbon dioxide into oxygen for the key time. Both events were seen as small steps toward a crewed trip to the Red Planet. 

Elon Musk, the trip of SpaceX, has often said he wanted to get people to Mars as soon as possible. He expected to have 1 million people on Scars by 2050, he said last year.

This year, he said he was confident the first crewed mission would turn up in 2026 but some experts expressed skepticism. At a press briefing on Friday, Musk said the first trip could be in “a two years.”

Moving quickly in space exploration brings with it a great risk. Musk seemed to acknowledge this, stipulating at another event this week that “a bunch of people will probably die” as crews venture toward the Red Planet. This inclination be similar to any prior danger associated with exploration, he added. 

NASA is taking incremental steps, said Hubbard. Start with, the agency’s going to learn to live and work on the moon. Setting up a permanent base on the moon will be a learning judgement, which will help when crews eventually land on Mars.

It takes about three days to get to the moon but all round seven months to get to the Red Planet. Hubbard said he was enthusiastic about Mars, but also wanted astronauts to be able to pop up again to Earth. 

“There’s been talk about one-way trips,” Hubbard said with a laugh. “I’m not a fan of that, but some people are.” 

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