On Tuesday, President Obama laid out plans for the future of space exploration in a piece for CNN. The President reaffirms his commitment to sending man to Mars while also laying out the next steps.
"We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time," wrote the President. "Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we're already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station."
As for what is next, much of it has to do with collaborating with private companies.
"Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we're already well on our way," wrote President Obama. "Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station."
The first initiative is creating habitation systems with private space firms that can "sustain and transport" astronauts into deep space. These long-duration missions have the potential to reveal how humans fare while they are living away from Earth. NASA has already selected six corporations to come up with prototypes of habitats.
"These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth—something we'll need for the long journey to Mars," wrote the President about habitation systems.
The second initiative involves letting private companies use the International Space Station (ISS), which ends its formal mission in 2020. In effort to see if the ISS can serve as a "jumping-off point" for other space stations, NASA will allow companies to add their modules and other capabilities to the ISS.
"The private sector responded enthusiastically, and those responses indicated a strong desire by U.S. companies to attach a commercial module to the ISS that could meet the needs of NASA as well as those of private entrepreneurs," wrote NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology in a joint statement.
Bolden and Holdren echo the President's announcement about the importance of collaborating with private companies.
"For humanity to successfully and sustainably settle the “final frontier”, we will need to take advantage of investment and innovation in both the public and private sectors," wrote NASA and the White House. "Neither will handle this immense challenge on its own."