Congress has asked NASA to figure out how astronauts might set up camp on the Red Planet (assuming they survive the six-month journey).
NASA has been tasked with developing a “habitation module” that could be used for deep space missions. The news was initially reported in SpaceNews, which picked up on a report attached to the recent omnibus spending bill. NASA has been allocated at least $55 million to get the module ready by 2018, which some Internet commentators say is a highly ambitious goal.
It is not yet clear what the habitation model for the next-generation space habitat would look like, or how it would work. NASA has remained tight-lipped on its specific plans for how it will use the funds. Popular Science points out that it will be challenging to ensure the module is both lightweight and shields astronauts from radiation.
NASA, which is perpetually under-funded, recently received some other good news. Congress set aside more money for the space agency than the Obama Administration had asked for: just shy of $19.3 billion for next year. With the additional funds, NASA might be able to meet its goal of launching crew missions to the International Space Station by 2017. NASA currently relies on Russia to hitch a ride, which has been a point of tension in the government and scientific community.