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Space Project Management: These 4 Best Practices can Help Us Get to Mars

In less than two decades, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Technology has changed in amazing ways since then. What would the first astronauts have thought of smartphones, the internet, and 3D printing? Although technology has changed a lot since then, the iconic spacewalk by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong remains our most memorable.

There have been some exciting developments. We’ve been back on the moon five times (the first in 1972), launched habitable satellites, sent robotic explorers to Mars, and photographed distant galaxies using the Hubble Space Telescope.

These galaxies contain about 100 billion Earth-like worlds.
But when will we finally do what science fiction has been urging us to do for decades: take an adventure-filled trip on another planet?
Aldrin, now 87, is pushing for a project that would colonize the moon to prepare for a manned mission to Mars.
Why go to Mars? (Aside from the fact that it would make us the most amazing people ever? Elon Musk supports SpaceX’s project by arguing that we need to be a multi-planet species for our lives.
Why do we need space project management?
It is impossible to predict the future of space exploration over the next 50-years. (After all, the U.S. military once planned to establish a military base on the moon to defend it from Soviet cosmosoldiers.
However, I am certain that no matter what path we take to Mars, whether it be SpaceX, NASA or some combination thereof, it will require project management (PM), best practices.
Let’s now take a look at the four core PM practices that can be applied to space project management, and get us to Mars in our lifetime.
1. Space budget management

Please note that this will be $500 million
In the 1960s, the Apollo Program that brought us to the Moon cost $20 billion in 1970s dollars. Today, it is more than $100 billion.
Add inflation and the complexity of a manned mission on Mars, and we can project that this program will cost around a billion dollars.
The danger
The mission to Mars will fail if it runs out of money early on, due to ill-advised investments such as light speed technology or teleportation research.
How space project management can help us save money
If the Mars program is managed well, it will remain on budget.
2. Risk management in space

“Wait, if both of us are out here, who’s driving this thing?”
Scientists back on Earth were skeptical that the Eagle would land on the moon’s surface in July 1969. This led to the tragic end of the Apollo program and the death of the astronauts aboard.
President Richard Nixon had also prepared a speech for the unlikely, but entirely possible, possibility that Armstrong and Aldrin might be left on the moon to await their death. You may have also heard about the Apollo 13 mission. This mission was canceled due to a malfunction.
The danger
There is always some risk when exploring the final frontier. This is especially true if you are doing it for the first time. Fortunately, technology advances and increased media exposure will make it impossible to take unnecessary risks on the mission.
How space project management can help us save money
We can reduce risk in the Mars program by using good project management techniques.
We can expect to have space-age risk management software by the time Mars is fully operational.

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