Americans may not be as excited about space travel as in the early years of space exploration. But NASA is still making plans and launching projects.
Early Monday, in fact, the NASA Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on Mars.
As far as human space exploration goes, Mars is the ultimate destination for now, NASA chief Charles Bolden told USA Today last week.
I have no desire to do a (manned) Mars landing on our own, said Mr. Bolden. The U.S. cannot always be the leader, but we can be the inspirational leader through international cooperation on space projects.
The $17.7 billion space agency must always be looking ahead well into the future. The Obama administration wants to land an astronaut on an asteroid in 2025, then head to Mars by 2035 or so.
But those missions and human landings on the moon will be international, Mr. Bolden said. The Mars mission will not be quick and easy. Now the plan is for six astronauts to go. It will take six months to reach Mars, one month to stay on the Red Planet and eight months to return.
Former NASA chief Michael Griffin agrees with the international approach. I believe that most Westerners presume that a human mission to Mars will quite likely be multinational, he said.
NASA has landed three mobile spacecraft on Mars since 1997. As for the Curiosity rover, Mr. Bolden said: Were going to put this thing on Mars like Buck Rogers used to do in the science fiction books.
Thats confidence. The landing will be televised in New York Citys Times Square.