On June 3, 1965, Air Force Maj. Ed White became the first American to walk in space when he stepped out of his Gemini IV spacecraft. Fifty years later, America’s human spaceflight program sits on a fulcrum. The space shuttle has been retired, and the International Space Station, or ISS, has been occupied for almost 15 years. The United States and its international partners are developing capabilities that could take humans to Mars in the 2030s, while private companies are working on spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017.
American leadership in human spaceflight is vital but not assured. The technical challenges involved in getting astronauts to Mars are daunting, and the long-term physical and psychological effects of such a journey remain uncertain. But the prospects for American-led human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit are brighter than they have been for decades. The U.S. government and private companies are slowly but surely putting into place many of the capabilities needed to send humans to Mars; however, the critical questions are yet to be framed.
Please join the Center for American Progress for a discussion on the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program—where we’ll go, how we’ll get there, and who will come with us.
Rudy deLeon, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force