Obama Wants To Send Astronauts to Mars by the 2030s

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 - 12:56PM
Space
NASA
Mars
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 - 12:56PM
Obama Wants To Send Astronauts to Mars by the 2030s
Two weeks ago, Elon Musk spoke before the International Aeronautical Congress and laid out a bold plan to make humanity a multiplanetary species by settling on the Red Planet. Today, CNN posted an op-ed column from President Barack Obama, saying he's made it a national goal to get humans to Mars by the 2030s:

Opening quote
We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.
Closing quote


This announcement comes five years after NASA retired its Space Shuttle program and essentially ended manned spaceflight outside of Earth's orbit, which brought fears that NASA, along with the dream of interplanetary exploration, would gradually dwindle under decreased funding and interest. But it was not to be—astronauts like Chris Hadfield became national celebrities by broadcasting videos from the ISS and delivering TED Talks about space, while scientist-celebrities like Neil deGrasse Tyson rocketed to pop-culture fame by showing people of all ages the wonders of astronomy and astrophysics.

Then, in 2010SpaceX launched its first Falcon 9 rocket. Since Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, his goal had been to colonize Mars. Now it seems the federal government has caught up with him: government partnerships with private companies like SpaceX, according to Obama, are going to be essential to completing the goal of Mars colonization:

Opening quote
The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth's orbit. I'm excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we'll need for the long journey to Mars.
Closing quote


Elon Musk's model of space travel relies primarily on two devices: the Falcon Heavy Rocket and the Raptor Engine. Both of these technologies came from the work of highly skilled engineers and mathematicians—literally rocket scientists. STEM, Obama believes, is going to be more crucial than ever in the coming years:

Opening quote
But the first, small steps happen when our students — the Mars generation — walk into their classrooms each day. Scientific discovery doesn't happen with the flip of a switch; it takes years of testing, patience and a national commitment to education.
Closing quote


That's right, "the Mars generation." If Obama (and Musk's) vision comes to fruition and humans are able to reach Mars by 2030, we may witness the birth of a new era, one where people have the potential to write "explorer" on their resume. This could be a new age of adventure, and a new generation of people with unexplored horizons available to them. Psychologically, economically, scientifically, and culturally, travelling to Mars is quite possibly the biggest event in recent human history. The fact that Obama has put it on the national agenda signals that this is no longer science-fiction.
Science
Science News
Space
NASA
Mars