Goals for America’s Space Program

Exploration Timeline

Policy recommendations from Explore Mars

  1. Fully Utilize Current Hardware Programs (Ongoing): Where appropriate, existing hardware development programs, both government and commercial, should be accelerated to provide the necessary hardware for a range of missions beyond low earth orbit at the earliest opportunity. In addition, NASA has begun an ISS analog program called ISTAR (ISS as a Testbed for Analog Research). This program should be accelerated so that ISS can provide an almost immediate Mars-focused training resource. We can also extend the presence of humans beyond Low Earth Orbit to gather data on the exposure to the space environment outside Earth’s protective geomagnetic fields.
  2. Moon landings (8-10 years): The Moon can serve as a valuable intermediate goal that can be accomplished within a decade. The Moon can provide an important testing ground for planetary hardware, human habitats, and other capabilities that are essential for human space exploration missions beyond the Earth-Moon system. This could be achieved by the end of a second Presidential term.
  3. Mars Fly-By or Mars Moon Mission (12-15 years): A mission to one of Mars’ moons or a Mars fly-by mission would be a historic mission that could excite the public about space exploration and show concrete progress towards a mission to land on Mars. Such a mission would demonstrate many of the technologies necessary for a Mars landing, but could be done sooner and for less money since the mission would not require an expensive lander and Mars ascent system.
  4. Mars Sample Return Mission or Prize (10 years): One of the essential robotic precursor missions to Mars will be a sample return mission. This is an important step prior to sending humans to Mars. This mission can also be used demonstrate In Situ Resource Utilization (technology) to manufacture propellant for the ascent from Mars. This technology is essential for efficient and sustainable human missions to Mars. This is also a mission that could be accomplished in a non-traditional manner by establishing a Mars Sample Return Prize.
  5. Mars landing (15-20 years): The first Mars human surface missions should be possible in the next 15-20 years. The first astronauts on the surface will be able to demonstrate ISRU technology, attempt to access water beneath the Martian surface, demonstrating the viability of growing food and other crops in Martian soil, production of power, and operation of surface space suits, tools, and surface vehicles, and many other capabilities.

GOALS

  1. Risk Tolerance: While there is no question that mission planners and policy makers must assure that crews are provided with protection from the numerous perils of space exploration, we also have to accept that our astronauts will face real danger. When President John F. Kennedy stated that, “We should go to the Moon…not because it is easy, but because it is hard,” he understood that difficult and dangerous endeavors often have the greatest potential for positive gain. Only by doing the hard things – by taking risks – will we grow as a nation. If we refuse to take such risks, then our society will become less and less relevant.
  2. Establishing a Solid Foundation: All of the efforts listed above are just the first stages of sustained human exploration of space. However, without this solid foundation, nothing else can follow and the impact of those missions will be far less. The Apollo Program had an “Achilles Heel.” Longer-term goals were never solidly determined and the rationale for the Moon landings was never effectively broadened beyond political goals.
  3. Technology and Competitiveness: The technologies required to mount human missions to Mars and elsewhere are precisely the categories of 21st century technologies that will keep the United States competitive in the global community and help us to maintain our technological leadership. The jobs that will be created will be high level technical ones that will not only support our space program but will also support other critical sectors of our economy, including transportation, defense, and national security.
  4. STEM Education: Funding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education is widely acknowledged to be critical for our nation’s future, but without inspiring goals and careers for students to work towards, such initiatives will be far less effective. Missions to Mars and other destinations within the next 20 years will re-energize excitement about these fields by showing our nation’s youth that they will be able to participate in an inspiring and historic program. Few if any federally funded programs have as much potential to advance STEM education.
  5. Science and Discovery: The scientific gain from such missions will be unprecedented. Robotic precursor missions to Mars have revealed a planet that is far more complex than anticipated. However, it will almost certainly require human explorers to determine fundamental and profound questions such as whether life ever existed on Mars.
  6. Inspiration and National Morale: While inspiration and national morale are not always considered in the budget process, economies and national growth are linked to national morale. One only needs to observe the stock market to realize that perception is as vital to our economic future as any other variable. We can either make excuses why other nations are surpassing us – rationalizing our way into a second rate country – or we can show the nation and the world that we still possess the drive, ingenuity, and audacity that built this nation and is required to explore new worlds. If we believe that we can achieve such goals, then we will most likely succeed.

Why Timelines and Destinations?

In order to assure a focused and efficient program, it is essential to establish the timelines mentioned above. The need for timelines is a reflection of human nature and political reality. Timelines provide focus and motivation. They also are fiscally responsible. While timelines do not always guarantee mission success, they do provide a proven method to judge progress and success – and help to assure that funds are being channeled toward clear goals. Otherwise, delays are too easily justified, and failure to produce tangible results is too easily excused. In addition, such timelines must not stretch too far into the future. The end result must be achieved within a reasonable period of time, due to the political difficulty of maintaining a program over extended periods of time.

Some would argue that we should not commit to such an ambitious program in such difficult budgetary times. However, this is precisely the right time to commit to goals that will arouse the nation. If we start now, we will not have to start from scratch. We still have a highly experienced workforce at NASA and in industry that can support such a program, with highly dedicated and skilled people who are anxious to participate in the next great goal; the new commercial space flight industry is making extraordinary progress that could revolutionize the space industry; and we have a major space based laboratory – the International Space Station – that, working with our international partners, can be utilized to advance the goal of sending crews beyond Low Earth orbit. Combined with the recent retirement of the Space Shuttle, we are today presented with a unique but time-critical opportunity to mount an historic mission. Such an opportunity may not present itself again.

It is time for the United States to mount a truly historic mission. We need to commit to a human mission to Mars by 2030 as well as appropriate intermediate destinations by 2022.

Daily Briefing

  • Chris Carberry: One Year of Curiosity - Are We Any Closer to Sending Humans to Mars?...

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  • Learn about the Humans to Mars Summit and watch the live webcast on May 6-8, 2013!...

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  • Has Curiosity found clues to life's building blocks on Mars?...

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  • As we all expected one of the Mars satellites imaged the area where Curiosity landed in greater detail...

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  • Bill Nye’s reaction to the Rover’s landing as he watches it from PlanetFest in California...

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  • Christopher Carberry, head of a Beverly-based nonprofit organization pushing for human exploration of Mars by 2030, was in Pasadena, CA...

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  • Jeff Horwich interviewing Chris Carberry, Executive Director of Explore Mars, on his thoughts on the future of Mars expeditions...

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  • Image of descending Curiosity by HiRISE on MRO
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  • T-0 Days: Landing - Today is the day! Will the landing be successful? Go Curiosity!...

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  • Chris Carberry blog in Huffington Post: "Humans on Mars by 2030 can and should be our next goal."...

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  • T-1 Days: Entry, Descent and Landing ...

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  • Explore Mars' Chris Carberry spoke on NPR's Morning Edition about excitement around Curiosity's landing...

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  • Forbes' Alex Knapp on the upcoming landing of the Mars Probe Curiosity...

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  • T-3 Days: Communications and its importance on the 23 month mission. Without communications no mission; it is a simple as that...

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  • T-4 Days: Analysis of the Curiosity rover wheels and the necessary power to allow the rover to travel across the rough Mars terrain...

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  • T-5 Days: New possibilities of a more hospitable Martian past have emerged...

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  • NPR's Diane Rehm: The U.S. Mission To Mars. Get Curious at 45:20!...

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  • "Mars Rock" lands at Houston City Hall...

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  • The Martian Invasion starts with "7 Minutes of Terror" Aug 5 2012 at Space Center Houston Landing Party...

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  • Landing in 1997, a bouncing method of airbags was used to land Mars Pathfinder after having been slowed with a parachute. ...

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  • Humans on Mars by 2030! Join Explore Mars and the George Washington Univ. Space Policy Institute at the 2013 Humans to Mars Summit ...

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  • We are not living in ordinary times, and the stakes have never been higher for a Mars landing ......

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  • That’s a long tail! The giant dust-evil plume shown in this late-springtime photo of the Martian landscape of Amazonis Planitia is 1.5 mile high. ...

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National Geographic

In National Geographic’s e-short book ‘Mars Landing 2012,’ written by Washington Post science correspondent Marc Kaufman and published just as the suspense builds, with Curiosity hurtling toward Mars, space science readers

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