At a recent summit in Washington, D.C., NASA chief Charles Bolden outlined the space agency's plans for a manned mission to Mars by 2030, calling it "necessary if the human race is to survive."
Bolden has described a massive effort the space agency might undertake to conduct such a mission: Start by lassoing an asteroid and bringing it into the moon's orbit by 2015. Then, astronauts could perform test missions on the asteroid, according to the International Business Times. The asteroid would serve as a necessary "proving ground" to inform NASA whether it is ready for Mars.
The former astronaut and Marine general's vision has drawn critics, among them some members of Congress, who would prefer NASA forgo the asteroid and go straight to the red planet, or use the moon instead.
Bolden explained in an earlier discussion the asteroid would not be the end goal, but the beginning step in a Mars mission. He directly addressed skeptics in Tuesday's summit, saying, "Get over it, to be blunt."
Ultimately, the human race will need to become colonists, Bolden said Tuesday. "If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multiplanet species; we need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems."
Bolden says he believes a journey to Mars is possible by the 2030s with modest increases to NASA's budget. Should the mission take place, it would likely last two to three years, the International Business Times reports.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).
- Space & Astronomy
- manned mission to Mars