The Mars surface missions of the past decades have deliberately led us to the point where we are now technologically equipped to begin the campaign to search for life beyond Earth. Successfully landing on Mars and exploring its surface is a competency that has proven to be uniquely American. The scientists and engineers who develop these missions are poised to deliver not only on the promise of this mission, but also on the next set of compelling planetary science challenges. Now is the time to accelerate the pace and scope of our nation’s planetary exploration program.
Planetary exploration inspires our children, expands America’s scientific and engineering literacy, and increases our economic and technological competitiveness. This is a pursuit worthy of a great nation.
Author: Robert D. Braun is the David and Andrew Lewis Professor of Space Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has been a member of the mission design and flight operations teams for several spacecraft that have landed on Mars and flown throughout the solar system. He served as the NASA chief technologist in 2010-2011.