US politicians have just approved a bill that wants Nasa to send humans to Mars by 2033 

The 146-page document calls for the space agency to “extend humanity’s reach into deep space”.

 

The United States Congress has just passed a bill to fund Nasa and it includes the aerospace agency’s long-term goal of sending humans to Mars by 2033.

For the first time in more than six years, both chambers of Congress passed the bill to provide over 19 billion dollars (£16 billion) to the space agency.

The key policies in the Nasa Transition Authorisation Act of 2017 include existing programmes such as maintaining and advancing the International Space Station (ISS) and sending astronauts to low-Earth orbit, as well as more ambitious plans such as Mars and deep space exploration.

According to Space News, there was no vocal opposition to the bill.

The 146-page document calls for Nasa to create a roadmap to “extend humanity’s reach into deep space, including cis-lunar space, the Moon, the surface and moons of Mars, and beyond” and asks for a “plan to carry out a Mars human space flight mission by 2033″.

The document adds: “Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the administrator shall contract with an independent, non-governmental systems engineering and technical assistance organisation to study a Mars human space flight mission to be launched in 2033.”

The bill also calls on the space agency to continue developing the Orion space capsule, for deep space exploration in the future, as well as the Space Launch System (SLS), a powerful rocket that will launch astronauts in Nasa’s Orion spacecraft.

Image of Mars taken by Viking Orbiter 1 showing its thin atmosphere.
(Nasa)

 

Now that the bill has been approved by the Congress, it’s up to US President Donald Trump to sign or veto the bill.

Trump has expressed support for a crewed exploration of Mars, mentioning during his inauguration speech that he is “ready to unlock the mysteries of space”.

However, his administration has also indicated that it wants to eliminate Nasa’s Earth Science division – which studies climate change – although that wasn’t mentioned in the bill.