NASA is determined to put human beings on Mars, and the United States government space agency has a message for the private entrepreneurs who have recently boasted that they intend to get to Mars first, through the power of free enterprise. And that message is: not going to happen.
Private enterprise will never put a person on Mars — at least not without some serious government assistance, the top NASA official told Congress this week.
Throughout the 1950 and 1960s, NASA was frantically embroiled on a “space race” with the Soviet Union, first to see which country could be the first to put a man in space and bring him back safely. The Soviets won that one.
Then, the race took on more cosmic dimensions, with the finish line becoming the moon. The United States won that one hands down, sending six manned Apollo missions to the moon between 1969 and 1972 and returning them all safely to Earth.
The Soviet Union never landed even one man on the moon.
But a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday, one congressmember suggested to NASA top administrator — and four-time space shuttle astronaut — Charles Bolden that NASA is now embroiled in a new space race.
Only this time, it’s not the U.S. government against the Soviet communists — this space race pits government against private enterprise, such as the Elon Musk-founded Space X commercial spaceflight company, or the Mars One project, which supposedly plans to start a human colony on Mars and film the whole thing for a reality TV show.
But Bolden scoffed at the very idea.
“No commercial company without the support of NASA and government is going to get to Mars,” Bolden told the committee, in no uncertain terms.
While NASA has stated its goal of reaching Mars by the decade of the 2030s, the Mars One project thinks it can get there 10 years earlier. But first — assuming that Mars One can even develop the technology to transport humans to Mars in the first place — the project must figure out how to let its reality show cast members survive more than a matter of weeks on the Red Planet.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study showed that the first humans to land on Mars under the Mars One plan would start dying off after about two months.
Mars One says it has already solved the problems identified by MIT, but hasn’t said how.
NASA, in addition to working on its mission to send human beings to Mars NASA continues to work on its Asteroid Redirect Mission, which ultimately could help protect Earth from calamitous asteroid collisions.
[Image: Mars One]