NASA's Plan to Put Astronauts on Mars By 2030

According to NASA's chief administrator, Charles Bolden.
Mars From the Curiosity Rover
Martian Valley on Mars, From the Curiosity Rover © NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
By Richard S. Chang

Earlier this week NASA livestreamed a spacewalk to repair a part of the International Space Station. There wasn't much "action," per se, outside of astronauts floating and the occasional machine operation, but it was still an amazing experience watching it all unfold: people in the vast expanse of the Universe. Beyond the astronauts' bodies was either the infinite blackness of space or a bright blue Earth.

That same day, the ISS was also cited by NASA's chief administrator, Charles Bolden, in a speech about an even more captivating topic: putting humans on Mars by 2030.

Bolden, in speaking to the Humans to Mars Summit at George Washington University, reaffirmed President Obama's goal of reaching Mars, a planet that once had conditions that could support life, within the next couple of decades. Then Bolden presented the two major steps it would take to get there.

Step 1 - More Work Aboard the ISS

OK, this is feasible. There are astronauts already aboard the ISS, which has been guaranteed funding through 2024. Bolden said that continued work aboard the ISS will educate NASAon how to travel deeper into and live longer in space. Private space companies, like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, will also contribute to the exploration.

Step 2 - Capture and Redirect an Asteroid

What? Yes, this is the plan NASA has come up with: To capture an asteroid and redirect it to orbit the moon. Why? NASA still needs to investigate space travel beyond low-Earth orbit, and this is how they plan on doing it -- with help from the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket (both of which are in development). Eventually, NASA plans on using the Orion, which is scheduled for completion in 2020, to send humans to Mars.

Bolden also spoke about the progress from the Mars Curiosity Rover, which shot the above photo of Martian Valley, and the importance of government funding before closing his speech. But he seemed to miss a vital step: How NASA planned on capturing an asteroid? Well, 2020 is still six years away. There's still time to figure that out.

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