I’m in no mood to keep my mouth shut any longer when I see NASA heading down the wrong path. And that’s exactly what I see today. The agency’s current Vision for Space Exploration will waste decades and hundreds of billions of dollars trying to reach the moon by 2020--a glorified rehash of what we did 40 years ago. Instead of a steppingstone to Mars, NASA’s current lunar plan is a detour. It will derail our Mars effort, siphoning off money and engineering talent for the next two decades. If we aspire to a long-term human presence on Mars--and I believe that should be our overarching goal for the foreseeable future--we must drastically change our focus.
Here’s my plan, which I call the Unified Space Vision. It’s a blueprint that will maintain U.S. leadership in human spaceflight, avoid a counterproductive space race with China to be second back to the moon, and lead to a permanent American-led presence on Mars by 2035 at the latest. That date happens to be 66 years after Neil Armstrong and I first landed on the moon--just as our landing was 66 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight.