US President Barack Obama wrote an op-ed for CNN where he outlined a plan to get humans to mars by 2030. Obama wrote in the op-ed, "We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time."

Now, Nasa administrator Charlie Bolden has followed up with a blog on this topic on the Nasa website. Bolden talks about Obama's vision in 2010 which gave the impetus to Nasa to move to new friontiers. He writes, "In April 2010, the President challenged the country – and NASA – to send American astronauts on a Journey to Mars in the 2030s. By reaching out further into the solar system and expanding the frontiers of exploration, the President outlined a vision for pushing the bounds of human discovery, while also revitalizing the space industry and creating jobs here at home."

NASA Reveals Nighttime Views of Earth
Composite map of the world assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012.Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC

Strategy to reach the Red Planet

Bolden further talks about the on-going efforts on the International Space Station (ISS) which will make the President's vision come true. He adds, "On the International Space Station, we're working "off-the-Earth, for-the-Earth," leading a broad international coalition of countries and companies in conducting research and demonstrating technologies that hold great promise for everything ranging from sending human beings to Mars to improving eye surgery to purifying drinking water and making communities more resilient when natural disasters strike. This work aboard the space station is the heart and soul of the first stage of NASA's Journey to Mars; a stage we call "Earth Dependent." It is focused on developing technologies and capabilities in earth orbit, where it is still fairly easy for us to directly support humans."

Bolden goes on to explain the strategy Nasa has adopted to bring this plan to fruition. "In 2014 we issued a "broad agency announcement" or "BAA" asking private partners for concept studies and development projects in advanced propulsion, small satellites, and habitation as part of the newly created Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships or "NextSTEP" program. Six companies received awards to start developing habitation systems in response to that "NextSTEP" BAA," he writes.

Meanwhile, Bolden says that they are looking at 'advantage of investment and innovation in both the public and private sectors'. According to him NextSTEP and ISS show how the public and private sectors can work together to people to make humanity reach further into space. Bolden says the 'Journey to Mars will be challenging' but they are looking to push boundaries.

Mars trip could cause brain damage

Billionaire Elon Musk wants to build a city on Mars and is busy building a transportation system that would take humans to Mars. However, University of California-Irvine (UCI) scientists who have been doing research on how space travel to Mars can affect humans have come up with some discouraging news. According to the research, the long journey to Mars could diminish their brain function and even cause brain damage by the time they arrive on the Red Planet. UCI professor of radiation oncology Charles Limoli stated in a release, "Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."