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NASA boss Bridenstine thinks we’d be on Mars already if politics didn’t get in the way

Published Jul 15th, 2019 9:09PM EDT
nasa mars mission
Image: Shutterstock

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NASA’s Mars exploration projects have yielded many surprising discoveries over the years, and we know more about the Red Planet today than we ever have before. However, the day when human astronauts make the trip to Mars will truly be a momentous occasion — and you can bet NASA will be leading the charge — but are we already late? NASA boss Jim Bridenstine thinks so, and said as much in an interview on the CBS program Face The Nation.

In the brief chat, Bridenstine suggests that on a different timeline where politics didn’t come into play, NASA would already have astronauts exploring the Martian surface today.

Fielding a question about whether NASA can make it back to the Moon by 2024, as was mandated by the Trump administration, Bridenstine offered the following response:

“The way I talk about this, there’s two risks. There’s technical risk and then there’s political risk. We would be on the Moon right now if it weren’t for the political risk. We would be on Mars, quite frankly, by now, had it not been for the political risk.”

Bridenstine then clarified that he was referring to lapses in funding and project timelines that were too long to be sustainable. He then uses that argument in support of the current administration’s demand that the crewed return to the Moon happens within five years.

It is, of course, impossible to say how things would have played out if NASA had received a blank check year in and year out for the past half-century. Technological breakthroughs are dependent on many things, and one of those is most certainly money, but would NASA already have humans on Mars if politics didn’t sway things one way or the other? Ehhh.

It’s a bold statement, and Bridenstine is going to do whatever he feels is necessary to show support for the decisions of the current administration (which put him in charge of NASA in the first place). We’ll have to wait and see if NASA can make a 2024 Moon trip happen, but there are so many hurdles to cross in the meantime that it’s almost not even worth imagining yet.