The revelation of its ambitions to send humans to the Red Planet comes ahead of its mission to establish a permanent settlement on the Moon, the last phase of which will consist of a six-week uncrewed test flight of its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. .
The mission is expected Artemis Iwhich the space agency seeks to launch on August 29, will return astronauts to the Moon by 2025, an undertaking that could serve as a testing ground for technologies aimed at visiting Mars.
But on Sunday, the agency’s associate administrator for technology spoke of its long-term ambitions to go beyond Mars and lay the groundwork for a “solar system-wide presence.”
“The point is that we will not stop when we have gone to Mars,” explained Dr Bhavya Lal to The Telegraph.
“By the time we have thriving settlements on Mars, we will probably have enough technology to be able to go deep into space.
“I think that idea is just that we will not stop. Our long-term strategic vision is to have a sustained presence on the Moon, Mars and throughout the solar system.
“At the highest level, our goal is not just to visit a place, but to bring the solar system and beyond into our economic realm.”
Despite a series of lightning strikes that struck the launch pad, the 322-foot (98-meter) test rocket remains set to blast off Monday, according to NASA.
The historic mission will send an empty crewed capsule into lunar orbit, 50 years after the space agency’s Apollo program, which landed 12 astronauts on the moon.
Three test dummies will be placed in the Orion capsule to measure vibration, acceleration and radiation, some of the biggest dangers to humans in deep space.
Officials said neither the rocket, capsule nor ground equipment suffered any damage as a result of the five lightning strikes that struck the 600-foot towers surrounding the rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
“Clearly, the system worked as designed,” said Jeff Spaulding, the agency’s senior director of testing.
“We’re within 24 hours of launch right now, which is pretty amazing for where we’ve been on this journey,” he told reporters.
The Artemis follow-up flight, scheduled for 2024, would take four astronauts to fly around the moon. In 2025 there could be a landing.
NASA is targeting the uncharted south pole of the moon, where permanently shadowed craters are thought to contain ice that could be used by future crews.
With additional reporting from the Associated Press