Humans have been dreaming of going to Mars for at least the last 70 years, and we've waited with bated breath for the first flight to launch. Now that ambitious plans to send humans to Mars have been drawn by Elon Musk and NASA, it's looking like a race to the finish line on some far off red rock.
Just because it's a race, though, doesn't mean the competitors are rivals. It's actually quite the opposite.
"If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's newly named associate administrator for science, told reporters from Seeker.
Zurburchen pointed out the importance of tackling issues with patience for those in opposition of his own stand. "It's really important to create, bring some empathy to the table," he said. "There's a lot of stuff that can be learned by just talking to people."
Technology is pushing these space agencies to finally turn science fiction into the breakthrough mission of the century, and we're looking at a flurry of advancements —rockets of record-breaking size, and self-sustaining cities on interplanetary transportation, to name a few—that may soon get us to Mars.
NASA's journey to get humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s is divided into three phases: Earth Reliant, Proving Ground, and Earth Independent—taking us from intensive research aboard the International Space Station to complex operations in multiple staging orbits for deep-space simulations, and finally missions and home-building on Mars.
SpaceX has been more forward with its steps to make Mars a permanent human settlement, and aims to land by 2025.
The agencies have partnered for a 2018 Mars mission that will see testing of systems as a precursor to manned explorations. Partnerships like these show what a future for humans on Mars will be—a breakthrough for all of mankind, not just of the competitive few.