United States can’t afford to give up on the Mars mission, says the National Research Council. In its 285-page report, which was released Wednesday, says that the mission is unaffordable given the current budget realities. But the U.S. must do it. To reach Mars, we will have to adopt a “very different way of doing business. The Mars mission will depend on a disciplined and well-financed approach, and it should not fluctuate from administration to administration.

Mars mission is impossible without foreign partners

The National Research Council said that the future Presidents and members of Congress will have to keep supporting NASA’s budget increase. NASA’s current budget of $8 billion should increase at almost double the rate of inflation for the next several decades. The National Research Council panel said that flat funding or only slight increases will lead to nowhere.

The report states that if America wants to explore Mars, the nation will have to involve private and international partners right from the start. The Mars mission is not possible without foreign partners, especially China, the report said. Therefore, the Congress will have to soften its attitude. The U.S. government is so suspicious of China that it has prohibited NASA from participating in any bilateral activity with China.

Third pathway for the Mars mission is the least risky

National Research Council outlined three different pathways to show what kinds of trade-offs will be required in terms of schedule, affordability, risk, and the frequency of trips to intermediate destinations. The first pathway will take astronauts to an asteroid which has been redirected to a lunar orbit. From there, astronauts will go the moons of Mars before finally landing on the red planet. The second method would take astronauts to moon and build a lunar outpost for eventually going to Mars. The report estimates that humans can land on Mars between 2035 and 2045 using any of the two pathways.

The third pathway will put off the Mars landing to around 2050. It involves multiple destinations including an asteroid, the moon, and Martian moons before landing on Mars. Scientists say the third pathway carries less risk than the other two due to the extra steps involved.