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Mars Mission: It's Now or Never

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By Silvana Peters | June 5, 2014 3:03 PM EST



An Atlas V United Launch Alliance rocket lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft in Cape Canaveral, Florida November 18, 2013. The Mars-bound MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

The National Research Council has released a long-awaited report penned by a group of experts on the United States' human spaceflight program. The report discusses the goal for humans to reach Mars and the critical concerns regarding funding such a momentous objective.

The 286-page report titled Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration was mandated by Congress and took 18 months to finalise and found that reaching the Red Planet would require a well-financed, "disciplined" approach with a continuous budget and timeline of succeeding missions.

One of the reports key recommendations is to focus on the moon. While the administration has previously remarked its opposition to moon landings, the report recognised learning opportunities. It stated a "return to extended surface operations on the moon would make significant contributions to a strategy ultimately aimed at landing people on Mars, and... would also likely provide a broad array of opportunities for international and commercial cooperation."

With the large demand a mission to the moon would require, the experts cited the importance of approaching the goal in a different way. It may require working with different actors in both the public and private sectors. It also makes a case for working with China which has shown "rapid development" in space capacities.

USA Today reports that Democratic Sen Bill Nelson of Florida, who initiated the study, confirmed that he's pleased with the conclusions.

"This is affirmation that a mission to Mars is a go," said the senator. "But as the report points out, we'll have to give NASA sufficient resources to get this done."

See the full Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration report here.

View the report's video summary:

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An Atlas V United Launch Alliance rocket lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft in Cape Canaveral, Florida November 18, 2013. The Mars-bound MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
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