NASA had a big win when the US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved a bill allowing them to send manned missions to Mars. This is the first time such a mission has been approved by the law.
USA Today reports that Congress also approved a US$19.5 billion budget in 2017for the preparation to the Mars mission. The budget also includes the development of a more advanced spacesuit fit for the red planet’s atmosphere and Commercial Crew Program spacecraft.
The following budget is divided into different space exploration components of the space agency which include US$5.4 billion for science, US$ 5 billion for space operations, and US$4.5 billion for exploration.
“Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars. The priorities that we’ve laid out for NASA in this bill mark the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight, ” said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.
The bipartisan bill also states that NASA should be able to send a manned mission to Mars within the next 25 years. Before that, however, the space organization needs to send an unmanned mission by 2018. Other provisions include the full use of the International Space Station until 2024.
The bill also mandates NASA to make improvements in how it monitors and diagnose diseases and other health problems related to space travel. Aside from this, Congress requires the space agency to provide a regular update of their progress.
Meanwhile, the Kennedy Space Center launched its Destination: Mars project, an attraction that uses Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to allow visitors have a ‘real-life’ experience of visiting Mars. The HoloLens is a virtual reality headset which allows superimposes pictures with the surroundings to produce a real-life environment.
Using this technology along with pictures taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars, guests can walk and ‘experience’ the Mars landscape without leaving Earth. The attraction is a partnership between NASA, Microsoft, and the Kennedy Space Center. The said attraction will be open for public on January 1, 2017.
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