Humanity might be getting closer, but we still have some work to do before we actually make it to Mars — and according to NASA, private spaceflight companies are going to help us get there.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke at the SpaceCom Expo and pointed to the role private spaceflight companies such as SpaceX already have in assisting with low-Earth orbit operations and trips to the International Space Station (ISS). He said NASA is looking for “new ideas” to help non-NASA astronauts conduct low-Earth operations. Private companies are set to begin taking U.S. astronauts to the ISS in 2017 and 2018.
Looking beyond that, Bolden said he believes the private companies will help fill the void left behind by NASA’s hard focus on getting to Mars. Namely: the moon. Bolden said he is confident private spaceflight companies will be making advances and developing usable tech to get humans to the moon and back with more regularity, which will help push space exploration advances as a whole forward:
"As we focus on sending humans to Mars, it will likely be commercial companies and international partners who assume a lead role in taking humans back to the surface of the moon. And I'm all for that."
It seems like we’ve been on the cusp of making great strides in space exploration for a while now, and we’re on the cusp of something great. With NASA throwing the doors open to get some help (not to mention the proposed efforts of other countries), it’s an exciting time to be a space geek.
Now, somebody just get our asses to Mars.