HUNTSVILLE, Ala - The Trump Administration has announced a new deadline to get a man back on the moon in 2024, but for years there have been people dreaming to go where no man has gone before, not just to the moon, but to Mars and beyond.
One of NASA's advisory council committees recently made recommendations to help steer the agency toward that goal.
The Human Exploration and Operations Committee meets at least 4 times a year. At their most recent meeting, they explained that to meet this goal there needs to be a long-term, sustainable plan that includes the moon.
My dream is the beyond part. That's my dream because I believe that there is life out there. It might not be exactly like what we believe and what we think it's going to look like, but I believe there is life out there," Mark McDaniel said.
McDaniel is a Huntsville based attorney who serves on the HEO committee. He thinks the moon will be part of realizing that dream.
"This is what we need to do to go to Mars and beyond... We need to have a sustainable presence on the moon, not a one-shot deal," he stated.
He explains what that presence would entail.
"We have astronauts there, we have Gateway, we have Orion docking with that, we have, you know, astronauts going to and from Gateway down to the moon to mine the moon," he explained.
He says having people spending time on the moon will answer important questions about how humans can safely stay in space for longs periods of time.
"We've learned all kinds of things on the International Space Station about the effects of space on the human body, but we're talking about going to Mars. We're not talking about six months. We're talking about a long time.
Not months - but years. He says it takes 9 months to go to Mars with the trip taking about three years.
McDaniel says this plan might sound a little out of this world, but...
"You've got to dream. That's what it's all about. You've got to dream to do things that have never been done in the history of mankind," he said.
The HEO Committee Made Other Recommendations At Their Last Meeting
Streamline NASA decision making:
HEO says the decision-making process should be shortened to meet the goal of having humans land on the moon in 2024. Currently, decision making is slowed by having multiple reviews at a high level. It is the committee's recommendation to have decision making delegated to the lowest level of authority.
"You have to turn it over to the program managers and start letting people make decisions so they can make, get decisions made quicker as opposed to going up the line and having meetings and having conferences and having all this," McDaniel said.
He says this would take it back to the way it was during the Apollo days.
"We had strong leadership by the President. He had strong leadership from the Vice President and the House and Senate were backing it. We had program managers that were getting things done. So you have to streamline and you can't be worried about accountants as much as getting the job done," he explained.
Continue Utilization of ISS until other commercial platforms in LEO are available:
The committing is recommending that plans should be made to continue International Space Station Operations past 2024. Currently, there is a plan to decrease funding for the ISS after that year.
McDaniel calls that ISS a national treasure.
"The things that we're doing, like on the International Space Station have never been done in the history of mankind. We're doing research up there, cancer research, they're doing Parkinson's research up there, different plant research up there," he said.
The committee is recommending to continue providing funding for and use the ISS until suitable replacement platforms are commercially operated and available for NASA service contracts.
STEM Opportunities for students:
In order to go to Mars and beyond, NASA will need a workforce. The HEO Committee wants to get students inspired to pursue careers math and sciences.
"Because the people who will be doing a lot of this stuff, especially the 'beyond' part, they're in elementary school now. They're in kindergarten now," he explained.