What's the Latest Development?
N.A.S.A.'s two main mission objectives in the post-shuttle era are to explore asteroids and Mars. Currently, the federal space agency is planning a Mars mission with the private exploration company SpaceX which will drill for signs of past microbial life beneath the martian surface. SpaceX has more immediate plans to launch its Dragon space capsule, atop its most powerful rocket dubbed the Falcon Heavy, as early as 30 November in an attempt to dock with the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule would also be used to go to Mars.
What's the Big Idea?
While the Mars mission currently being discussed is unmanned, all efforts to explore the red planet point toward sending humans to its surface. Elon Musk, the forward thinking Internet entrepreneur and C.E.O. of SpaceX, sees Mars as the next evolutionary step for our species: "Ultimately, the thing that is super important in the grand scale of history is 'Are we on the path to becoming a multi-planet species or not?' And if we're not, that's not a very bright future. We'll simply be hanging out on Earth until some eventual calamity claims us."