Obama: No, Seriously, Lets Go To Mars


President Obama has renewed a call for an American crew to walk on Mars by the 2030s. He says such a mission will require collaboration between private companies and government agencies.

It’s the same timetable Obama gave in speeches in 2010 and 2015. However, articles by both Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden published this week details of three steps that bring the US closer to that reality. One is a conference this week in Pittsburgh with scientists, engineers and students designed to explore the ways private space companies can work with the government.

The second is an announcement of six companies winning NASA contracts to work on habitation systems for the trip to the red planet and a potential extended stay there. Finally, NASA says it will also move forward with plans to let private companies build a module that will dock on the International Space Station. That’s important not only because it will encourage more private activity in space, but because it adds more plausibility to the idea that NASA ceasing operations on the ISS in 2024 would allow it to spend more money on a Mars program.

For humanity to successfully and sustainably settle the “final frontier”, we will need to take advantage of investment and innovation in both the public and private sectors. Neither will handle this immense challenge on its own. The NextSTEP and ISS initiatives are excellent examples of how the two sectors can work together to extend humanity’s reach into space. Make no mistake, the Journey to Mars will be challenging, but it is underway and with each one of these steps, we are pushing the boundaries of exploration and imagination for the Nation.