National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s future plans for space exploration are ambitious to say the least. They include hijacking an asteroid to put it into the moon’s orbit, growing plants in space and laying the groundwork for permanent human settlements in the solar system. Now, the NASA administrator Charles Bolden has gone one step further by saying that a manned mission to Mars is necessary for our ‘species to survive’.
During his address at the Humans to Mars summit, he said, “If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species. We need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems.”
NASA plans to land humans on Mars by 2030.
There are two facets to Bolden’s statement.
First, it is the representation of human fascination with the planet Mars. According to Bob Crossley, professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, "There was just enough of a possibility that Mars might be able to support an intelligent population that made it fascinating for masses of people."
Second, it is a continuation of the series of NASA’s efforts to settle human beings in outer space. In 2009, NASA launched its space observatory Kepler to search for Earth-like planets orbiting in habitable zones of other stars. The space agency has also made plans for what it calls the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which involves sending a manned aircraft to an asteroid and then using high-power solar electric propulsion to steer it into the moon’s orbit. Such a move will allow scientists to learn valuable information which will aid in the human quest for settlements in space.
NASA’s plans for space travel seem exciting enough, but considering the damage humans have inflicted on Earth, settlements in space doesn’t seem to be such a great idea.