It looks like mankind is in for another giant leap. And soon. Space.com reported that, according to NASA, preparations for the first manned mission to Mars are proceeding as planned, with humans expected to set foot on the Red Planet in the 2030s.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, "We are farther down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA's history. We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we'll get there."
The “work” in question includes completing the development of the spacecraft and rockets that will get humans there and back again. The Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft are two of the pieces of equipment still being tested.
The next Mars rover is planned to launch in 2020 and will carry the Mars Oxygen ISRU experiment, also known as MOXIE. According to NASA, MOXIE will take carbon dioxide out of the thin Martian atmosphere and produce oxygen. If MOXIE is successful, humans will have oxygen to breathe and rockets will be able to use that oxygen to help power the trip back to Earth. This will be the first time oxygen has ever been produced on another planet.
The one thing still standing in the way of this manned mission to Mars is money. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, which has been made into a film starring Matt Damon, said, "I don't have faith in Congress to give them enough money to make that happen, so I'm being a little more conservative." Weir instead guesses that humans won’t set foot on Mars until 2050.