Mars One, the Netherlands-based nonprofit that wants to send human colonists to Mars using private-industry rockets, has been widely criticized for its unrealistic goals and timeline. This week, in a U.S. House Committee hearing for NASA’s 2016 budget, NASA chief administrator Charles Bolden told the committee that “No commercial company without the support of NASA and government is going to get to Mars,” reports Engadget. Bolden’s statement, while not a direct reference to Mars One, certainly seems to support the skepticism surrounding the project.
In the budget committee hearing, Bolden said that a manned mission to Mars is still a priority for NASA, with the next unmanned robotic rover mission planned to launch in 2020. He is not alone in prioritizing Mars: Elon Musk has been pushing for manned colonization of Mars for some time. Humans must be a multiplanet species, Musk insists. Musk’s assertion is half aspirational, half practical. For the first time in 4 billion years, humanity has a window to explore outside Earth, and there is no telling how long that window will be open, Musk told The Guardian. But being able to spread out from Earth will also give humanity the chance to avoid destruction by our hands or from an outside calamity: As one writer put it, Musk sees Mars colonization as extinction insurance.
There is much more on the table within NASA’s proposed budget, including two pieces to the Mars puzzle: the Space Launch System rocket family, slated for launch readiness in November 2018, and the Orion crew capsule, which had its first successful unmanned test in December 2014 but is not expected to make manned flights until 2021, says The New York Times.