Mars or the Moon – Where do NASA manned missions go next?

The last humans to visit the moon left the lunar surface in Apollo 17 at 5:55pm EST on Dec 14th 1972, since then no humans have been further than low earth orbit missions and to the variety of space stations that have existed since then.

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The question is now, where shall we go next, do we make Mars the next great step forward or do we go back to the moon. This time it’s not down to the space race or national pride but it’s in expanding man’s horizons to living elsewhere in the solar system other than the earth and maybe even making a profit whilst doing so.
Even before the Apollo missions had finished, Werner Von Brawn, the designer of the Saturn 5 moon rocket, wanted NASA to mount manned missions to mars and the Soviets were also drawing up their own plans to send men to Mars.
But by the early 1970’s, the huge cost of the space race, the warming in the relations between the US and the Soviet Union and the change of direction by NASA from the Moon to manned space stations and the space shuttle, effectively ended manned space exploration beyond low earth orbit, and Mars, which was always a much more difficult challenge was off the agenda.
However, the exploration of the solar system didn’t stop, From the 1970’s onwards, Robotic probes and satellites have been sent all of the planets. In fact, there have been 40 Mars missions to date, not including flybys, these include orbiters, landers and rovers but though only 18 of them have been actually successful.
Man has a long held fascination with Mars going back to the Romans, and although Mars is not the closest planet to earth, that is actually Venus, it is the most earth like.
In the 1877 Giovanni Schiaparelli reported that he saw long thin lines on the Martian surface, he called these canali, which means channels in Italian. Not long after the noted astronomer, Percival Lowell picked up on these and through his own observations came to believe that Mars must have been not unlike earth in the past and the “Canals” were the work of intelligent beings to try and irrigate the surface.

Credit – Space Video and CGI : NASA

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