NASA administrator on the space agency's future: 'Mars matters'

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Apr 13, 2016, 12:07 PM EDT

Though the path to Mars might be a hard one to walk (or, err, fly), NASA’s top decision-maker says the Red Planet is still a key part of the space agency’s plan.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden touched on the agency’s status while speaking at the National Space Symposium, and sent the message that Mars is still the top target. He didn’t dig too deep into federal reports claiming NASA’s plan to reach Mars is deeply flawed, but instead pointed to recent accomplishments such as the partnerships with companies like SpaceX to start ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, and the ongoing work on the Orion crew capsule.

Here’s an excerpt from his comments via Space:

"Even though we here recognize why Mars matters, it's important every now and again to remind ourselves, so that we'll be more effective in reminding our friends and neighbors. When (rocketry pioneer) Robert Goddard first started publishing his research and telling people about his belief that we'd someday be able to send a rocket all the way to the moon, the idea seemed so, well, 'out of this world' that people laughed at him. The press nicknamed him 'moon man.' Others called him 'moony' and 'moon mad’…

I don't know about you, but if you had told me back then that today I’d be talking to you after having recently welcomed Scott Kelly home from his year in space aboard the International Space Station — and by the way, that the Station had been recommended for extension not once but twice by the president and Congress, let’s just say I would have been quite the skeptic!”

Which, sure. Yeah, we definitely need to go to Mars at some point. But, with all signs pointing to NASA being too underfunded to feasibly pull this mission off in the proposed timeframe, you have to wonder if the space agency might want to aim a bit closer to home before mounting a Mars trip. We actually delved into just that topic recently, and the moon certainly looks like a good stepping stone.

What do you think? Should NASA stay the course on Mars, or start working in some in-between goals?

(Via Space)