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Bolden Says NASA Stays On Track for Mars In Obama’s $19 Billion Space Budget

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says NASA is “as strong as it’s ever been”


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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks about the agency's scientific and technological achievements, and cutting-edge future work, including sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, during a State of NASA event, , Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Bolden chose NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia for this year's "State of NASA" speech.

"The state of our NASA is as strong as it's ever been," Bolden said.

An international consensus of scientists, academics and nonprofits supports the space agency's goal of sending humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s, Bolden said. He added that he hears less and less from people who have doubts about the plan.

"I like to think part of this is because our plan is clear, affordable, sustainable and attainable," Bolden said. "Another reason is simply because Mars matters."

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 keeps NASA on track in other major goals, Bolden said, such as paying private companies like SpaceX to fly astronauts from U.S. soil to the international space station by 2018. This would end NASA's dependence on Russian vehicles to get astronauts to and from the ISS.

Bolden also spoke about the upcoming launch, planned for 2018, of the James Webb Space Telescope, which will replace the Hubble Telescope.

The proposed budget contains more money for research on commercial aviation — including efforts to help airlines reduce fuel consumption and also carbon emissions.

"We've learned that we can save the commercial airline industry as much as $255 billion — that's billion with a ‘B' dollars — over 25 years," Bolden said.

Obama's proposal actually decreases the budget to develop the Orion Crew capsule and the heavy rocket system that is supposed to replace the space shuttle.

But Congress could decide to increase those amounts — as it has in previous years — before the fiscal year begins in October.

Bolden highlighted several NASA "firsts" to watch for in 2016.

"In the coming year we'll test an expandable space habitat aboard the space station," he said. "That could lay the groundwork for giving our astronauts a place to live during long duration space missions."

In March, astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth after spending a full year on the space station. In July, the planetary probe Juno will arrive at its destination, Jupiter, after a five-year journey. And later this year, NASA plans to launch the Osiris-REx spacecraft that will travel to a the nearby asteroid Bennu and bring a piece of it back to earth.

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