Bill boosts NASA funding, makes Mars a priority

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With U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson looking on, President Trump signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2017 Tuesday.

"With this legislation, we support NASA's scientists, engineers, astronauts and their pursuit of discovery," the president said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nelson -- a one-time shuttle astronaut, boosts NASA's funding to $19.5 billion for 2018. Among other things, it makes a manned trip to Mars a key goal.

"The moon landing was bigtime stuff. This will be 10 times bigger," said Dennis Farr, an astronomer at MOSI.

Farr applauded the signing and what it means for the future of space exploration.  It also could mean big business for the state of Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

"It's great to know a commitment has been made to move forward in this direction," Farr said.

Still, a manned mission to Mars presents several hurdles scientists will have to overcome. Round-trip, it will take around three years. That brings up physical and mental challenges for the astronauts. 

Then there's radiation.

"They have to find a way to block the radiation and keep it from the people. You know, humans are very frail," Farr said.

It's believed there was water on the red planet at one time.

"Based on what we know, water is a requirement for life, so if there was water, there could have been life," Farr added.

NASA is eyeing the mid-2030s for the manned mission to the red planet.