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In an op-ed today, President Barack Obama made another one of those Presidential Kennedy-like space commitments, this time proposing that the U.S. send humans to Mars.
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. 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.
Obama in his op-ed spends a lot of time claiming credit for the recent resurgence in the American space industry. Though his administration does deserve some of the credit, in that they continued and expanded the commercial space initiative first started in the Bush administration, the bulk of the credit here really must be given to the private companies that did the actual work. SpaceX and Orbital ATK took enormous financial risks to make their rockets and capsules fly. They made it happen, proving at last to a generation that had lost faith in private enterprise and freedom that relying on private enterprise and freedom really is the best way to do things.
Meanwhile, I would not take Obama’s proposal very seriously. We will have a new president in just a matter of a few months, and that president will make his or her own decisions. Moreover, it really won’t matter that much what that next president proposes anyway. The real story will be with private individuals and private companies, forging their own dreams as they search for ways to get into space in a profitable manner.