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NASA Says Human Will Likely be Sent to Mars within 20 Years

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According to NASA, a human will likely be sent on a mission to Mars in the next 20 years, though funding issues had many wondering if it would ever happen.

During a three-day conference starting Monday in Washington D.C., NASA officials will discuss the latest projects.

A poll found that the majority of Americans want an astronaut to land on Mars, and they expect it to happen by 2033.

Seventy-five percent of those polled said NASA's budget should be doubled from .05 percent of the federal budget to one percent so that they can fund a mission to Mars.

During the Apollo project, which sent astronauts to the moon in the '60s, NASA received four percent of the US federal budget.

NASA's chief Charles Bolden said "a mission to Mars is a priority."

"If we started today, it's possible to land on Mars in 20 years," G. Scott Hubbard of Stanford University said.

"It doesn't require miracles, it requires money and a plan to address the technological engineering challenges."

It will indeed be a challenge to land on Mars. They will have to find a way to place a mass of 30-40 tons on the planet to make a habitat. During Curiosity's landing, which weighed one ton, scientists were nervous something would go wrong. 

The Curiosity mission, which cost $2.5 billion, is set to last two years. The goal is to study the planet's environment and search for evidence of water.

Hubbard suggested that a nuclear engine be used to propel vehicles headed to Mars, as it would provide a continuous thrust and reduce travel time by three months. It would also reduce the risk of radiation.

On top of engineering and financial problems, there is also the problem of how a long space journey would affect a human body. The consequences of such a long journey between Mars and Earth, which varies between 35 to 250 million miles depending on the planets' position, are not known. 

"Space radiation exposure is certainly a human risk we need to address and understand," Steph Davison, manager of NASA's Space Biology and Physical Sciences Program at Johnson Space Center said. 

He said it was important to know "both the cancer risk to our crew members in more detail and also the effects on the central nervous system."

They know that being in space affects vision, as more than half of crew members at the International Space Center have had some degree of change in their sight and have experienced intra-cranial pressure.

Davison said they need to study the trip's impact on the human body for a minimum of ten years before they send someone to the planet.

Sources: Raw Story, Popular Science