Increasingly, humanity’s eyes are turning to Mars. Elon Musk recently laid out plans to make space travel relatively cheap, and Boeing has declared they want to beat Musk to the Red Planet. But one rather crucial piece has been missing; government support. That’s now in place, as President Obama has announced a plan to get us to Mars by the 2030s.
In fact, Obama’s big news from his announcement is that the government is working with private companies to develop environments that would allow humans to live in deep space for long distances:
I’m excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars.
That’s even more important than it sounds. SpaceX and its other competitors have mostly been focusing on reducing the costs of getting us into orbit. Just to get us into orbit, right now, requires spending half a billion dollars on a rocket you use once and throw away, which is why SpaceX’s boosters managing to land themselves had scientists and nerds running around like giddy children. And that’s a big deal, because even dropping $500 million on a self-landing rocket you can reuse dozens of times would be a huge financial step for both public and private space exploration.
But, of course, once we’re in space we have to survive. There are some novel, if sometimes disgusting, ideas for surviving the trip to Mars, and now, we’ll finally have an opportunity to test them out. Of course, we were supposed to be sending people to Mars two years from now, but hey, we’ll take the 2030s.