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Mars should be the goal for human exploration by 2030, President Obama suggested in an online address on CNN in October. The president declared that the physical investigation of the planet is an attainable goal that can also help to unify the country, much as it did in the past. This is a story that echoes the great space age of the 1960s, and President Kennedy’s famous goal for a man to travel to the moon and back within a decade.
President Obama emphasized that America’s rich history of achievements in space exploration were far more extensive than that of any other nation, and he stated that aiming to bring humans to Mars will keep that strong tradition intact. Ultimately, longer-term stays on Mars could be a feasible objective in the future, as well.
This would be no small feat. Human beings reaching Mars has been a rather dreamy goal, ever since man first set foot on the moon in the summer of 1969. Since then, the next logical step, albeit a huge one, was to do the same and reach the red planet. Yet, the goal itself is daunting and requires a lot more detailed work and technological advances than the moon landing, as the red planet is much farther away.
Perhaps the most telling description came from John Noble Wilford. Nearly half a century ago, Wilford covered the moon landing for the New York Times. He suggested that the desire to take people to Mars appeals to the collective imagination of the nation “with a force mightier than gravity.” That desire has not been quenched, in fact, it has grown. President Obama, perhaps with an eye toward his own legacy, regarding the space program, stated in his CNN address that he believes people could be sent to Mars and back to Earth as soon as 2030. To that end, NASA will be working with six private corporations to try and make this happen.
However, among these corporations assigned the task to assist in preparing for this venture is Space X and founder Elon Musk. The company feels that 2030 is an overly conservative estimate. Musk believes that this could be accomplished much sooner. Recently, Musk revealed his own plans to take human beings to the red planet within the next decade. There are indications that Musk and Space X are moving forward with their plans to beat the clock.
As a new start-up company in space exploration, Moon Express, has recently asserted their interest in working with Space X. They hope to achieve President Obama’s suggested goal of the human exploration of Mars, by 2030 and believe this accomplishment could and should be achieved even sooner.
One thing that is certain, a trip to Mars will not happen while President Obama is still in office, and most likely will not happen during the term of President-elect Trump, either. That said, for humans to reach Mars, it will likely require the full support of the next American president. There are some who have expressed their skepticism that President-elect Trump will be a strong advocate for this landmark goal in the space exploration program. John Logsdon, a space policy expert, believes that it could really go either way.
Still, despite the obvious political differences between Trump and his predecessor, there are encouraging signs that he approves of moving forward with this goal. Robert Walker, one of Trump’s advisers, suggested that the president-elect believes that continued American leadership in space exploration can still inspire the world. He holds the belief that the ultimate destiny of humanity lies among the stars.
By Charles Bordeau
Edited by Jeanette Smith
National Geographic: Mars Is Still a Priority Under Trump
Brock Press: Obama hopes humans can get to Mars by 2030s, Elon Musk thinks the next decade
CNN: Barack Obama: America will take the giant leap to Mars
CNBC: Elon Musk may have a new partner in his mission to colonize Mars
Image Courtesy of Islxndis’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License