NASA chiefs have spoken out in defense of the space agency's pending plans to send humans to Mars. The upper echelons of the agency are convinced that a manned mission to the Red Planet is vital to the ongoing survival of humanity.
During the Humans to Mars summit held in Washington this week, NASA head Charles Bolden pointed out a few reasons why a manned mission to Mars is necessary. Bolden is the head of the country's space program and his defense of NASA's future plans coincided with the agency's announcement of a plan to send humans to Mars by the year 2030.
"If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species, we need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems," said Bolden during his talk at the summit.
Bolden's talk can be seen as a response to propositions from certain individuals in Congress who have expressed doubts regarding the importance of such missions.
The agency's current plans for the Red Planet involve a series of smaller steps that will eventually culminate in landing humans on the surface of the planet. The plan hinges on these smaller, albeit necessary steps for its final goal.
"NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s - goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010," says NASA.
In the first phase of what NASA calls "Human Exploration: NASA's Path to Mars," American companies will be providing space transportation up into low-Earth orbit. Various companies and corporations are already engaged in a private space race that could drastically bring down the costs of sending up cargo and passengers up into orbit. In fact, Elon Musk's Space X has just completed a resupply mission to the International Space Station using the privately developed Falcon 9 rocket delivery system and the Dragon spacecraft.
The second part of NASA's Path to Mars involves gaining mastery over the important fundamentals needed for future space missions to the Moon and eventually Mars itself. The first two parts of the plan outline by NASA are part of the "Earth Reliant" phase of the path to Mars.
The next part of the plan involves testing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System currently under development in missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Next, the agency plans on improving its space faring capabilities by paying a visit to an asteroid that will be captured and redirected to a lunar orbit. This phase of the plan is referred to as the "Proving Ground" of NASA's ambitious plans of getting to Mars. Lastly, the agency stressed the need to develop "planetary independence" by finally exploring Mars and its immediate surroundings.
Scientists from all over the country are currently working together to develop the necessary technologies needed for the massive undertaking.