NASA's new budget went to Capitol Hill yesterday, and it looks like travelling to Mars is off the table: the agency just doesn't have the funding. One potential alternative is building a "manned waypoint" on the far side of the moon - or, as Pink Floyd liked to call it, the Dark Side.
The waypoint would serve as a jumping off point for scientific missions, as well as trips to asteroids, Martian moons, and one day Mars itself. So while the agency is putting on hold plans to build the Space Launch System "mega-rocket" to Mars they were talking about last year, they could launch it from this station if it ever gets built. The waypoint would also put humans further into space than they've ever gone before, making this a fairly ambitious plan for an agency facing heavy cuts. NASA scientists should have a better idea of whether the plan is feasible following a meeting later this week in Paris. A report on the project is due March 30.
Down here on Earth, Russian scientists are studying an environment that may offer new insights into life on Mars. After 20 years of drilling, a Russian team has reached Lake Vostok, a vast body of water two miles under Antarctica. The lake is thought to mimic conditions under the surface of other planets, including Mars. Scientists will examine ice removed from the borehole for signs of life; if they find those signs, it may signal the possibility that similar life forms could exist on the Red Planet.
But for now, NASA's focus is on the far side of the moon. Judging by this video of two Apollo 17 astronauts dancing and singing on the moon way back in 1972, space is a pretty fun place to visit. Key quote: "I like to skip a little".
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