NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in his State of NASA speech, recently explained exactly why he is very happy with the progress that has been made in the race to the Red Planet. While delivering his message on Feb. 2nd, he spoke inspiringly regarding the future of his organization and humankind.
At the famous Kennedy Space Center, Bolden revealed that Obama has proposed an 18.5 billion dollar budget for NASA for 2016, marking a 500 million dollar increase from this year. Bolden believes it is a portent of good things to come and a result of governmental confidence in NASA employees and “the ambitious exploration plan [they] are executing.”
Bolden, reminding everyone that the US is the only nation to have landed a spacecraft on the Red Planet, says that “NASA is firmly on a journey to Mars.” Obama gave NASA a quasi-clement goal to put a crew on Mars by the mid 2030’s, and Bolden is determined to meet or beat that goal, pointing out to the Space Center staff that it was only a few years ago that “President Obama stood here in the Armstrong Operations and Checkout building and committed us to a Journey to Mars.”
Administrator Bolden also gave a brief image of the near future, stating that another rover would be sent to Mars in the year 2020, with intentions to not only expand on the great knowledge that the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has given us, but to actually collect samples to be brought back to Earth.
Opportunity has been exploring Mars for quite some time, and NASA says it’s nearing a distance of 26 miles traversed on the surface of the alien planet, a marathon for runners here on our home planet. In doing so, the rover has collected a vast amount of significant data, including information about the formation of rocks that suggests the ancient presence of liquid on Mars. In late January, it also marked its eleventh year on Mar, with a plethora of stunning panoramic photographs of the alien landscape.
Bolden not only looks to Mars, but past our celestial neighbor, hoping to expand the human experience beyond what many people today have even dreamed of. He cited in particular the journey of the New Horizons spacecraft, which was just awoken in January in preparation for its arrival to the orbit of Pluto – the first to come anywhere near the dwarf planet.
NASA employees and Bolden himself are very, very excited to see the results, mainly the images of the distant, icy planet and its five moons that New Horizons is set to send back by this summer. “Mars is a key destination, but it’s only one point on our journey of discovery. It’s a journey across and out of our solar system to the furthest reaches of the universe and the frontier of the human capacity to explore,” said Bolden, with an inspiring look to the distant future. He ended his speech with equally inspiring words, saying: “Together with our commercial and international partners, academia and entrepreneurs, we’re launching the future. With the continued support of the Administration, the Congress and the American people, we’ll all get there together.”