WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Jim Bridenstine’s first major address as NASA administrator defended the new agency directive to go to the moon first before voyaging to Mars.
- New initiatives to send humans to the Red Planet, however, were not disclosed in his speech on Wednesday, May 9, at the Humans to Mars summit in Washington, D.C.
- Bridenstine said that it’s time for the U.S. to build its own railroad in space, which is already being started by NASA through two robotic Mars missions.
Jim Bridenstine was the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma’s 1st District, and was sworn in as NASA administrator only three weeks ago. While NASA went 15 months under interim leadership, it was tasked by the Trump administration to take humans back to the moon before going to Mars.
The summit delegates were told that the missions to the moon and Mars are complementary initiatives.
Bridenstine clarified, “If some of you are concerned that the coming focus is the moon, don’t be. We’re doing both the moon and Mars in tandem, and the missions are supportive of each other.”
He explained, “Our return to the surface of the moon will allow us to prove and advance technologies that will feed forward to Mars.”
Such technologies could help improve precision landing, surface habitation, surface mobility, and long-duration life support.
Bridenstine pointed out that although these were government missions, they were done with the help of American industries and the military sector, as well as international partners.
NASA’s InSight Mars lander launched on May 5, Saturday, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with the mission of probing deep into the Red Planet’s interior.
While its main goal is to better understand the rocky planets’ evolution, its findings will also help humans assess the risks in exploring Mars. These risks include a thinner atmosphere, meteorite strikes, marsquakes, and volcanic activity.
Meanwhile, the focus of the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission is to search for potentially habitable environments, and cache possible samples to return to Earth. An experiment called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Experiment) will also be carried out to test the processing of oxygen from Mars’ mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere, which could be useful for future missions.
NASA’s forthcoming Orion deep-space spacecraft, and the powerful Space Launch System rocket will also be important in allowing astronauts to “explore where an economy does not exist,” Bridenstine added.