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Nelson Funding Bill Mandates Astronauts Go To Mars

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NASA
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  U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is sponsoring a NASA funding bill, which requires a human to set foot on Mars. 

Nelson spoke on the Senate floor earlier this year promoting the bill which was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Senate bill 3346 provides the space agency $19.6 billion with a few strings attached. One of them is a commitment to a manned flight to the Red Planet. 

“We’re going to send a human crew to Mars in the decade of the 2030s,” Nelson said. “And we are right at the cusp of the breakthrough to show how this is possible.”

Mars is already in NASA’s master plan, as Administrator Charles Boldin said in 2014.

“For one thing, Mars’ formation and evolution are comparable to Earth’s,” said Boldin. “What we learn about the Red Planet may tell us more about our own home planet’s history.”

The rocket which will carry astronauts to Mars had its first successful test in December, 2014. Testing is also underway on the spaceship, Orion.

Sen. Bill Nelson’s call to put a man on Mars comes 54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to send a man to the moon, and 30 years after Nelson flew as a payload specialist aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.

“On this occasion of 30 years later on something that was transformative to me, I want to take this occasion to say that I am so optimistic of where we are going,” Nelson said. “Because we are going to Mars.”

In May, Mars and the Earth moved to within 47 million miles of each other, the closest in more than a decade and called “Opposition.” The next such encounter will be in 2035. Wayne Wooten, an astronomer at Pensacola State College, says if manned missions are being flown to Mars by then, it could reduce the travel time by several weeks. 

“Mars is about as close to the sun and Earth as it’s going to get; at the same time the Earth is overtaking it and passing it closest to Mars,” Wooten said. “This is an opposition about as good as it gets.”

And Florida Senator Bill Nelson says the testing of SLS and Orion will help re-kindle excitement among those who think the space program ended with the close of the shuttle program.

“They will be reminded and re-energized and enthused, as only human space flight can do,” Nelson said.

Other provisions in S-3346 are NASA’s commitments to encourage development of private space companies and programs for some lower-Earth orbit business – including the ferrying of astronauts to the International Space Station perhaps as early as next year.