NASA’S PLANS FOR HUMAN EXPLORATION BEYOND LOW EARTH ORBIT .

Издательство: NASA Office of Inspector General
Описание: Human exploration of Mars has been a long-term goal of NASA and the Nation for the past 5 decades. In 2015, the Agency announced its Journey to Mars framework for deep space exploration with manned missions to Mars beginning in the 2030s. In addition to the technical and health-related challenges of deep space missions, such a multi-decadal venture will be very expensive, with NASA’s budget projections for human exploration to Mars exceeding $210 billion by 2033. A vital part of achieving its long-term human exploration goals is the successful development of NASA’s new spaceflight system – the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion) capsule, and the ground processing and launch facilities (Ground Systems Development and Operations or GSDO) needed to launch the rocket and capsule for cislunar and deep space exploration. NASA has invested more than $15 billion in these three programs since 2012, and its near-term goals include a first uncrewed flight of the integrated SLS/Orion systems – Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) – no later than November 2018 followed by a crewed flight – Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) – as early as 2021. 1 However, NASA’s plans beyond these two missions are less clear, with several options in early development, including robotic and crewed missions to an asteroid in the early to mid-2020s to test technologies and capabilities that would be needed for a mission to Mars. Moreover, these scenarios were developed during the previous administration, and the Agency’s new leadership is seeking to modify those plans with the President’s fiscal year 2018 budget request proposing cancellation of the Asteroid Redirect Mission and the Agency issuing a document in March 2017 that modifies and fleshes out some of its plans. In light of the enormous costs and challenges and the critical decisions that must be made in the next several years, we examined NASA’s plans for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term. Specifically, we assessed the Agency’s (1) plans for and progress towards its first flights of the integrated SLS/Orion systems in the next 2 to 5 years, (2) challenges in executing a sustainable and affordable plan to send a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s or 2040s, and (3) strategies to help reduce the costs of its human exploration efforts. To complete this work, we analyzed cost data, interviewed Agency officials, conducted on-site inspections, and reviewed planning documents, feasibility studies, and other relevant program documentation.