US relies on industry help to make 'giant leap' to Mars

October 11, 2016
President Barack Obama has said the United States wants to send people to the Red Planet, Earth's neighbor, by the 2030s

US President Barack Obama said Tuesday the nation is relying on private industry to find ways to make the "giant leap" to Mars, with human missions on the horizon by the 2030s.

The US president's announcement confirmed a long-standing agreement to partner with commercial companies on future missions to deep space, and gave some new details on how such collaborations will play out in the coming years, particularly aboard the International Space Station.

"We have set a clear 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 essay posted by CNN.

"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," he added.

"These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth—something we'll need for the long journey to Mars."

Obama also touted an upcoming conference of top scientists, engineers, innovators and students later this week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a chance "to dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers."

In August, NASA announced that six companies had been selected to work on deep space habitats, and would receive a combined total of $65 million over the next two years.

These companies include Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and NanoRacks.

Habitats, or expandable living quarters, may be erected on a planet's surface or used to shelter astronauts traveling on a spaceship.

US President Barack Obama has long pushed for sending Americans to new frontiers, including an asteroid and Mars

The issue of getting enough food and water into space to feed astronauts on a months or years-long mission to deep space has also been a key logistical problem, and little research has been done to show how this might work.

"Getting there will take a giant leap," Obama wrote, alluding to words spoken July 21, 1969 by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he walked on the Moon. ("That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.")

"But the first, small steps happen when our students—the Mars generation—walk into their classrooms each day," Obama said.

Commercial use of space station

A second element of Obama's plan involves encouraging commercial companies to use the International Space Station, which circles the planet in low-Earth orbit, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) high.

A recently installed docking adaptor will allow more companies to park their spaceships at the orbiting outpost, a global collaboration that includes the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Once the ISS's mission ends in 2020, it could be used as a base to help set up other commercial space stations, said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

The US space agency asked companies for input and "the private sector responded enthusiastically, and those responses indicated a strong desire by US companies to attach a commercial module to the ISS that could meet the needs of NASA as well as those of private entrepreneurs," said Bolden.

"As a result of the responses, this fall, NASA will start the process of providing companies with a potential opportunity to add their own modules and other capabilities to the International Space Station."

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks about the "Interplanetary Transport System" which aims to reach Mars with the first human crew
Deep space vision

Obama has long pushed for sending Americans to new frontiers, including an asteroid and Mars.

He angered some Republicans in his first term when he cancelled a program, called Constellation, aimed at returning astronauts to the Moon, in favor of pursuing instead.

In April 2010, Obama outlined his vision for sending people to the Red Planet, Earth's neighbor, by the 2030s.

Bolden described Obama's plan as "pushing the bounds of human discovery, while also revitalizing the space industry and creating jobs here at home."

NASA is currently developing a powerful rocket known as the Space Launch System and a capsule, Orion.

The first launch of the SLS—with no people on board—is planned for 2018.

A US mission to send humans into the area of space beyond the Moon, but not as far is Mars, is planned for the 2020s.

Explore further: Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin discusses 'Destination Mars'

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22 comments

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RichManJoe
1 / 5 (6) Oct 11, 2016
Wouldn't it be nice if there was as much hype about developing technologies that allow us to live on earth for the next 200 years as there is for getting to Mars.
RichManJoe
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2016
Delete this post
Gigel
not rated yet Oct 11, 2016
Wouldn't it be nice if there was as much hype about developing technologies that allow us to live on earth for the next 200 years as there is for getting to Mars.

What will we be doing here for another 200 years?
Gigel
not rated yet Oct 11, 2016
I think I got it. Well, with the end of Apollo program and the hype about renewables, right now renewable energies may be getting more advertising that space flight.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 11, 2016
Wouldn't it be nice if there was as much hype about developing technologies that allow us to live on earth for the next 200 years as there is for getting to Mars.

What will we be doing here for another 200 years?
Wishing we were somewhere else.
Zorcon
5 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2016
Wouldn't it be nice if there was as much hype about developing technologies that allow us to live on earth for the next 200 years as there is for getting to Mars.

We already have those, and we've had them for at least 50,000 years. More like 2 million if you count our ancestors and sister species...

Wouldn't it be nice if more people would contribute to human progress instead of complaining and sniping at those who do?
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2016
Apollo showed us that we can do it, and we can. That's good enough. But going to Mars just for the sake of going there is a waste of resources. Better to wait until we have a deeper purpose.

I keep saying, industry is the only valid reason for interplanetary shuttles. Asteroid mining; H3 harvesting on the moon; exploring possible archeological sites that show evidence that off-Earth sites were visited in the distant past by god knows who. All great reasons for going. Establishing a Mars base for the sake of it is not a good reason for going.
Edenlegaia
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2016
Establishing a Mars base for the sake of it is not a good reason for going.


It could be for the sake of no longer simulating how living on other planets, most likely those with harsh "living conditions", could be and how to adjust our technologies and behavior during missions, short or long...or lifelong. Experiencing what simulations on Earth and life on the Moon could not teach us.
optical
Oct 11, 2016
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optical
Oct 11, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Mark Thomas
4 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2016
"But going to Mars just for the sake of going there is a waste of resources. Better to wait until we have a deeper purpose."

Mars is the next big step in our exploration of space. Space exploration offers the possibility of essentially unlimited resources including materials, energy and real estate. It also offers the expansion of our scientific knowledge and a chance to get started on the ultimate adventure of exploring a trillion planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. That should be more than a sufficient deeper purpose.

Q (from Star Trek): (Regarding the galaxy) "It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid."
optical
Oct 11, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Oct 11, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Oct 11, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Mark Thomas
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 11, 2016
"I'd prefer to research cold fusion first"

So why don't you? You can buy palladium coins online for about $680/oz. and maybe centrifuge your deuterium out of sea water, or find a supplier for the stuff. If cold fusion is so great, why are you so reluctant to put some of your own money into it? After ~30 years it seems clear that cold fusion is a total fraud. If you disagree, put your money where your mouth is.
rrrander
3 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2016
Hilarious. Talking about going to Mars when you can't even fly off the Earth without foreign help. Thanks, Obama. I guess being a Chicago "street organizer" doesn't prepare you for being involved with NASA?
Gigel
not rated yet Oct 12, 2016
I keep saying, industry is the only valid reason for interplanetary shuttles.

If they go on Mars and find a large gold/platinum deposit, I think it may pay off fully.
optical
Oct 12, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2016
Mars is a good first step, because it is closest to what we have on Earth:
- It has some atmosphere, so the temperatures are not as extreme as on other bodies in the solar system (though still very cold)
- It has some gravity, so the debilitating effects of low gravity may not be as severe as elsewhere. (though osteporosis may still be big issue because that doesn't depend on average forces on bone but on peak forces.)
- It (presumably) has enough accessible water to develop water extraction technology needed elsewhere.

It may not be a 'land of gold' like the Americas was for the Spaniards, but it could be a good testbed for trialing all the tech needed for the more hostile environments (asteroids, several interesting moons)
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2016
there is a waste of resources. Better to wait until we have a deeper purpose
Like musk and so many others SAY, it's about survival, eggs in one basket, etc.

Proliferate or die. Survival is the only reason we ever colonize and explore. It's the nature of life. And survival is always profitable.

And private industry has a long history of foregoing profit for long-term return. The Americas were conquered by states but were settled by private industry. Standardized railroads and the industries to support them required enormous initial private investment. Cecil Rhodes and other private concerns developed industry in africa.
optical
Oct 12, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2016
Nobody has anything against proliferation, but without technological background the colony at Mars will not save terrestrial life anyway. Without cold fusion or similar source of energy the colonization of Mars is unthinkable
nukes and solar, same as here.

"People would never recognize the fission power system as a nuclear power reactor," said James E. Werner, lead of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory.

"The reactor itself may be about 1 feet wide by 2 feet high, about the size of a carry-on suitcase. There are no cooling towers. A fission power system is a compact, reliable, safe system that may be critical to the establishment of outposts or habitats on other planets. Fission power technology can be applied on Earth's Moon, on Mars, or wherever NASA sees the need for continuous power."

-Your myopia is not healthy zephyr.

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