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House committee to mull NASA piloted flyby of Mars and Venus

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Mars
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A February 24, 2014 story at Al.com takes note of a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to take place on February 27 to discuss using the Space Launch System and the Orion to conduct a piloted flyby of Mars and possibly Venus with a 2021 launch. This appears to be a variant of the Dennis Tito Inspiration Mars idea to do a flyby of Mars with a 2018 launch.

There is no one currently with NASA or in the Obama administration included in the witness list. The witnesses include:

Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

“General Lester Lyles (ret.), Independent Aerospace Consultant and former Chairman of the Committee on “Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program” established by the National Academies

“Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate

“Dr. Sandra Magnus, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.”

It should be noted that Dr. Pace is former NASA official and has been considered as a possible NASA administrator in a future Republican administration.

The current NASA manifest lists a visit to an asteroid previously captured and placed in orbit around the moon in 2021. This proposed mission has received very little enthusiasm in aerospace circles, the Congress, or the public at large.

On the other hand, a return to the moon, for a number of scientific, commercial, and national security reasons has been considered an ideal start for NASA’s deep space exploration program. The moon, with its resource of ice, can be used as a jumping off point and a refueling stop for missions deeper into the solar system.

However there is much that is beguiling about a piloted mission that would flyby both Mars and Venus in a mission that would last less than two years. Provided that it succeeds, it would constitute a stress test of a whole variety of deep space exploration technologies, not to mention the effects of long term microgravity and radiation on the human body. It also has a certain romantic air to it, since the mission would be the longest voyage ever undertaken by human beings. It would be Apollo times 100 in many respects.

Will that be enough to cause yet another shift in plans and aim humans across the interplanetary depths? Time will only tell.