President Donald Trump wants American astronauts to return to the Moon and make it into a pit stop on the way to Mars.
Vice president Mike Pence confirmed the plans at the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Virginia.
We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon – not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.
Describing the move as a ‘stepping stone’, Pence said that NASA had lost its appeal over the years and was in need of asserting itself in the growing presence of rival space programs.
The president has charged us with laying the foundation for America to maintain a constant commercial human presence in low-Earth orbit.
During his two-terms, President Obama had dismissed the idea of going back to the moon, deeming it more important to venture further.
NASA’s administrator Robert Lightfoot said:
NASA has been directed to develop a plan for an innovative and sustainable programme of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the Solar System, returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilisation, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.
It’s not just NASA that are planning missions to Mars.
Elon Musk’s own SpaceX are hoping to reach the planet within the next decade.
He has said in the past:
If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilisation is very high.
A team of scientists recently discovered ice buried close to Mars’ equator, in a region where there isn’t supposed to be any water at all.
The team, led by post-doctoral researcher Jack Wilson from John Hopkins University, made the exciting find after re-examining old images from NASA archives.
— Mark Hilverda (@markhilverda) October 2, 2017
Current understanding of Mars is based on the idea of water not being thermodynamically stable at low altitudes. However, this new insight really could change everything.
The archived images were taken between the years 2002 and 2009, gathered by neutron spectrometer instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft.
Wilson and his team were cleverly able to reduce blurring and ‘noise’ from the images, dramatically enhancing spatial resolution from 320 miles to just 180 miles (520 kilometers to 290 kilometers).
This allowed for a much clearer, closer perspective of the red planet than the image had previously allowed.
— Maxime Duprez (@maximaxoo) October 1, 2017
Surprisingly high levels of hydrogen were detected around parts of the equator. At high latitudes, this is known to signify buried water ice.
Although the spectrometer cannot detect water in a direct sense, it can measure neurons in such a way that scientists can measure hydrogen abundance, inferring the presence of water and other hydrogen producing substances.
Back in 2002, Mars Odyssey made an initial huge discovery when abundant hydrogen was found just underneath the at high latitudes. This was confirmed to be water ice in 2008.