It's exciting news that SpaceX, the private company that just sent a highly spaceship to dock with the International Space Station, wants to put a human on Mars in a dozen years.
Elon Musk, the CEO, made the announcement recently.
It has been years since NASA had a credible goal of going anywhere beyond low Earth orbit. (The station is just 400 kilometers from our planet.) The shuttles are grounded and there's no replacement vessel, nor even a firm plan to build one. The White House and Congress are lukewarm to commitments for funding a new spaceship, and NASA must now pay the Russians $50 million for each astronaut's ride to space.
But it is now 41 years since a human last stood on the moon, and anyone who is serious about exploring space has to think big. That's what took Apollo missions to the moon.
SpaceX is an echo of the excitement of those days, when getting to the moon by a deadline was a priority. More to the point, it has the backing of an impressive list of NASA insiders, past and present. Canada's own Chris Hadfield, who will command the space station, recently commented that Dragon is really proving SpaceX's capability, after the successful mission of Dragon, an unmanned cargo ship.
While NASA won't have a new rocket for at least a decade, it's refreshing to see a private company offering to carry some of the burden.