Currently, it appears priorities are shifting gears as NASA's chief scientist revealed in a recent interview that the space agency are planning to colonise, send humans to Mars' surface and become pioneers of the Red Planet.
In the interview with The Guardian, Ellen Stofan, NASA's chief scientist, talked about NASA's new "step-wise approach" and plans of a manned mission to Mars.
"NASA, right now, is really taking a step-wise approach: let's look at our own solar system and the most likely places where we might find life," Stofan told the publication.
"That's why we are so focused on Mars, because we know Mars had liquid water on the surface and we think that is essential to life."
With barely a year in service as NASA's chief scientist and acting as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Stofan appears to sound sure about plans of a manned mission to Mars, although she's saying she is "biased" because she is a field geologist.
According to the data from the NASA Web site, the appointment of Stofan as chief scientist of the space agency "marks a return" since from 1991 until 2000 she is said to have held various senior positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.
Prior to her return to the space agency, Stofan has worked as vice president of Proxemy Research in Laytonsville, Md., and professor in the University College London with researches focused on geology of planets, including Venus, Mars, Earth, and the Saturn's moon Titan.
"Having humans on the surface is how I think we are going to be able to demonstrate totally conclusively that life did evolve on Mars . . . We like to talk about pioneering Mars rather than just exploring Mars, because once we get to Mars we will set up some sort of permanent presence," Stofan cited.
NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which seeks signs of life on the Red Planet, has immensely shown how similar Earth and Mars are, although according to NASA, the conditions on Mars appear to "vary wildly" from what people know on Earth.
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, is considered to be the second smallest planet in the solar system also called the "Red Planet." It has been greatly explored by Earth's scientists. There appears to have various scientific proposals for a manned mission to Mars throughout the years. But none yet has been carried out though there have been preliminary works for the mission.
NASA recently announced that it would try to send humans to Mars in early 2030.