Last week United States President Barack Obama vowed to send people to Mars by the 2030s. He promised to work with private companies, “to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space.”
“We have set a cler 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,” Obama wrote in an opinion editorial for CNN.
He mentioned leading scientists and engineers from around the U.S. will soon meet in Pittsburgh to discuss the plan.
In 2010 Obama set a goal to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. This reiteration demonstrates he is still committed six years later.
The U.S. government has also awarded contracts to six companies to build prototypes for space habitats capable of sustaining human life in deep space. One of which is already attached to the International Space Station. These private companies will soon ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, wrote Obama.
Private sector interests in space have been on the rise, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX which has spent the last few years developing and testing reusable rockets.
Musk recently revealed his plan to get humans to Mars in the next decade. He pitched the journey as insurance for the human race should we befall some catastrophic event, which he said is likely at some point.
The SpaceX founder hopes to send a craft with at least 100 people to Mars in as little as 80 days of travel.
Such a journey is likely to be incredibly challenging both technologically and economically, Musk acknowledged, and will require cooperation between both the private and public sectors.
“Right now, we’re just trying to make as much progress as we can with the resources we have available to keep moving forward,” said Musk. “And if we show that this is possible, that this dream is real — not just a dream but something that can be made real — I think the support will snowball over time.”
The increase in collaboration in space related projects between government and private entities has been the trend the last few years ; since 2011 when the U.S. ended their 30-year space shuttle program, losing the ability to send astronauts to the ISS. This duty has been picked up by private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing.
“Just five years ago, US Companies were shut out of the global commercial launch market. Today, thanks to groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, they own more than a third of it. More than 1,000 companies across nearly all 50 states are working on private space initiatives,” wrote Obama.
“If we make our leadership in space even stronger in this century than it was in the last, we won’t just benefit from related advances in energy, medicine, agriculture and artificial intelligence, we’ll benefit from a better understanding of our environment and ourselves.”