In 1969, Wernher von Braun, mastermind behind the historic Apollo moon landing, was also drafting plans of Mars exploration.
In 1989, President George Bush was ready for Mars. Failing to budget half a trillion dollars for the program, NASA allowed that initiative to fade.
In 2010, Obama aspired to send humans to Mars by 2030. Today, that aspiration is becoming a tangible objective.
In a speech on Oct. 11, Obama announced our newest space exploration project. “Our space program represents an essential part of our character — curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and doing it before anybody else.”
Earlier this week, in an opinion piece for CNN, President Obama described this ambition as “vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space.”
With his term coming to an end, Obama spearheaded these issues, for the first time presenting the mission to space as a collective effort and blurring the lines of public and private sectors.
The initiative allows NASA to partner with commercial companies in both sectors of industry. Obama stated that private industry collaboration will be crucial in this crusade, with an ultimate ambition to remain and sustain life on Mars for an extended period of time.
The use of private companies is nothing new for North American Aviation, Grumman Aerospace and McDonnell Aircraft, the companies responsible for constructing Apollo, the lunar module and other spacecrafts. Private organizations have been the basis of manufacture for space programs of the past. However, it becomes a modern development for these companies to compete to sell their research to NASA.
In the near future, private companies are predicted, for the first time ever, to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
In 2015 alone, NASA made leaps in space discovery, finding evidence of flowing water on Mars, meaning a higher chance for sustaining life on the planet. Just one of abundant developments to the field of math, science, technology and engineering in the past decade, this discovery draws us closer to Mars.
Only five years ago, American companies were shut out and barred from the global commercial launch industry. However, according to Obama, due to the groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, the U.S. now pioneers the progress in modern technology and leads the frontier in space exploration.
Rather than nations competing in a space race, the competition is now among different companies. There are over 1,000 manufacturing companies across the nation driving private space initiatives, a third of which are funded by the public U.S. government.
“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,” Obama wrote for CNN.
A highly confident Elon Musk, chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, announced his architectural proposals for transport to Mars. What he coined as the “Interplanetary Transport System” would be capable of taking 100 colonists to Mars as soon as 2024.
Despite success in numerous innovations SpaceX still fairs small in both manufacturing size, making his self-established deadline maybe too optimistic.
With his term coming to an end, Obama is just paving the way for this expedition; through the ambitions and collaborations of a collective industry, humans may just become a multi-planetary species.
“Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators,” wrote Obama, “and we’re already well on our way.”
Competition breeds innovation. And the space race is on.