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The Mars Countdown Begins

When historians look back on the years that yielded the most monumental scientific impact, they will certainly earmark 2014 as one that laid the framework for the future discovery. About a month ago, the European Space Agency landed its Rosetta spacecraft on a comet, and just last week NASA successfully launched Orion, the vehicle that will hopefully send man to Mars.

As a Florida resident, the space program is a pivotal cog in our culture and economy. But with the shuttle program coming to a close in 2011 combined with a bevy of federal budget cuts to NASA, thousands of Floridians were left without work, and future space exploration was left in a state of flux.

Scientists and celebrity-scientists alike petitioned the White House to refrain from further budget cutbacks to the agency, citing the importance of space missions to the field of science and humanity at-large. It appears Bill Nye’s urging has worked. A program that was seemingly heading down the path to relative obscurity has surged back, from high-profile missions such as the Curiosity rover landing on Mars in 2012 to spaceflight newcomers such as SpaceX building the rockets and capsules of the future, NASA is alive and as active as any time in its history.

The Orion spacecraft, launched successfully last Friday after numerous weather delays, may prove to be NASA’s most ambitious and greatest endeavor to date. The Orion program was designed with the ultimate objective: human footsteps on The Red Planet. We are many, many years away from that dream becoming reality, but with the agency’s concerted strides and sufficient funding from the federal government, it may not be as far off as we all imagine.

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