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One of the most pressing matters concerning NASA and the United States government at the moment is the quest for America to be the first country in the world to put human beings on Mars. The current conversation has raised many important issues about space exploration such as, what are the practical benefits of being the first country to raise a flag on an alien planet? And, perhaps more importantly, is it even an achievable goal?
Can NASA really put people on Mars?
According to experts, there are some practical benefits to the exploration of Mars. Firstly, the scientific community is decidedly behind the venture. The established presence of water on Mars and the evidence that suggests the Red Planet has once inhabited means that exploration of the planet could yield the discovery of the very first extra-terrestrial life forms. The discovery of even now extinct forms of Martian life could revolutionize various scientific fields here on Earth.
On a more mundane level, a national project designed to put people on the surface of Mars would require a massive boost in technological research and production which would provide a fairly significant bump for the American economy. It would also result in the creation of a not inconsiderable number of new American STEM-based jobs.
American politicians and social activists also believe that a mission to Mars could be hugely beneficial for national pride. As the European Space Agency and the national space programs in both Russia and China pick up pace, there are genuine concerns at NASA that the American space program might be getting left behind. Conversely, if another space program achieved the feat of putting a human on Mars first, it might be hugely wounding the American national ego.
Given current technological advances in space exploratory vehicles, it is believed that NASA could theoretically put people on Mars by 2033 – but only if their budget is increased. Under President Kennedy’s leadership and the subsequent presidency of Lyndon B Johnson, NASA received around 4% of the overall federal budget. Currently, the agency receives 0.5% of the budget and under half of this is spent on human space flight. It is believed that with additional funding and a re-shifting of priorities at the space agency, that the rewarding plan to send human beings to the Red Planet could be completely within the realms of possibility.
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