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Evaluation of a Human Mission to Mars by 2033

Status Report From: Institute For Defense Analyses
Posted: Friday, April 19, 2019

Full report(PDF)

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 mandated that NASA "develop a human exploration roadmap...to expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit to the surface of Mars and beyond, considering potential interim destinations such as cislunar space and the moons of Mars (U.S. Congress 2017, Section 432(b))." In response, NASA presented its current and notional plans for human space exploration in the National Space Exploration Campaign Report (Campaign Report), released September 24, 2018. In Section 435 of this Act, Congress also mandated that NASA contract with an independent entity to conduct a study that includes:

• The technical development, test, fielding, and operations plan using the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and other systems to successfully launch such a Mars human spaceflight mission by 2033

• An annual budget profile, including cost estimates, for the technical develop- ment, test, fielding, and operations plan to carry out a Mars human spaceflight mission by 2033

• A comparison of the annual budget profile to the 5 year budget profile contained in the President's Budget Request (PBR) for FY 2017 under 31 U.S.C. §1105

In August 2017, NASA asked the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to conduct this independent assessment, specifically requesting that STPI use NASA's current and notional plans for human exploration as the basis for the spaceflight systems and timelines presented in this study. STPI produced a draft report in December of 2017. Because NASA's exploration program was refocused in 2018, STPI was asked to update the earlier report in September 2018. Additional research was conducted between September 2018 and January 2019. This report is the result of those efforts.

In its assessment, STPI drew on information from many sources, including the Campaign Report; discussions with NASA personnel and individuals from the space industry; peer-reviewed scientific literature; and other publicly available documents on NASA's current and notional plans for human space exploration, including the FY 2019 PBR and presentations to the NASA Advisory Council and its committees. STPI also utilized its own experts' insights on determinants and patterns of technology, scheduling, mission architecture, and cost risks for large, complicated projects incorporating new technologies.

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