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50 years after Apollo 11, a Mars landing is the next giant leap, NASA chief says

By Mike Wall
July 16, 2019, 11:23:32 AM EDT

Humanity will have to go far afield to notch another spaceflight achievement with the cultural heft of Apollo 11.

The epic first moon landing, which occurred on July 20, 1969, inspired a generation, spurring kids around the world to care about science and space exploration. Indeed, many of us are taking some time this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and take stock of its legacy.

Similar fanfare will likely attend the semicentennial of the first crewed Mars landing, which NASA aims to pull off in the 2030s, agency chief Jim Bridenstine said.

mars 11

NASA is planning to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. (Image: © NASA)

"The president has said that we need to go to Mars," Bridenstine said, referring to President Donald Trump, during a teleconference with reporters today (July 15).

"We need to send humans to Mars. We need to put an American flag on Mars— that's the goal," he added. "I think when that stunning achievement occurs, it will inspire a new generation, just like Apollo has inspired our generation."

NASA's crewed Mars plans include a return to the moon under an ambitious exploration program known as Artemis. The agency plans to use the moon as a steppingstone, where NASA can learn and test the skills required for the long trip to the Red Planet.

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