Bridenstine Reassures Advocates That Mars is Not Forgotten

Bridenstine Reassures Advocates That Mars is Not Forgotten

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reassured advocates of sending humans to Mars that the agency is still working towards that goal even though the current focus is the Moon.  NASA is pursuing the two goals “in tandem,” he told participants in the annual Humans to Mars (H2M) conference this morning.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaking to the Humans to Mars conference, Washington, DC, May 9, 2018. Screengrab.

During the Obama Administration, the H2M conference was the marquee annual event in Washington, DC where representatives of government, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations as well as the interested public got together to discuss policy and plans for getting humans to Mars as soon as possible.  The Obama Administration was focused on putting humans in orbit around Mars by the 2030s and eventually on the surface.

Landing on the Moon was not part of the Obama plan.

President Trump has restored human lunar landings to U.S. plans for human spaceflight and that is NASA’s immediate focus, working with commercial and international partners.  Just yesterday, Bridenstine spoke to companies interested in partnering with NASA in lunar exploration, his first speech as Administrator.

Some Mars advocates worry their dreams will be pushed into the indefinite future.

Bridenstine sought to allay those concerns.  After recounting the history of Lewis and Clark and the building of the transcontinental railroad as steps in opening up the American West, he likened Saturday’s launch of the InSight mission to building a railroad “tie by tie, stake by stake” to Mars with the government and private sector working hand in hand as they did back then.

“If some of you are concerned that our focus in the coming years is the Moon, don’t be.  The President’s vision has emphasized that our exploration campaign will establish American leadership in the human exploration of Mars.  We are doing both the Moon and Mars in tandem and the missions are supportive of each other.” — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA is building a “sustainable, enduring” capability to explore deep space.  “We need a thriving LEO economy… and a government backbone to explore where an economy doesn’t yet exist.”  That includes the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, “a thriving industrial base and a world wide coalition focused on this goal and sustaining it by inspiring the next generation.”

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