On 30 April 2013, NASA said that it renegotiated a $424 million contract with Roscosmos for ISS transportation services in 2016, which will include six seats in Soyuz rockets with return and rescue services extending through June 2017.
On 6 May 2013, NASA’s chief announced that the US space agency is putting its resources on sending humans to Mars by 2030, outsourcing near-Earth missions to private contractors.
“A human mission to Mars is today the ultimate destination in our solar system for humanity, and it is a priority for NASA. Our entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.
President Barack Obama requested about $17.7 billion for NASA in 2014 which Bolden said is a “vibrant and coordinated strategy for Mars exploration.”
NASA plans to train 20 astronauts who “will be among the first trained specifically for long-duration space flights,” said Bolden.
The US wants to design a space vehicle capable of traveling on the seven-month or longer flight to Mars by the 2030, and then return to Earth. Experts estimate that another 40 ton package, including air supply, would be needed to maintain a human habitat on Mars.
“The US has demonstrated that we know how to get to the Moon,” Bolden said. “What we have not demonstrated and what I think everyone in this room – well most people in this room will concede, is that there are technological gaps to sending humans to an asteroid and to Mars,” Bolden said at the conference.
NASA now hopes the US Congress will approve outsourcing to private contractors all future rocket missions to low earth orbit in order to concentrate on deep space exploration instead.
The agency argues that it requires full funding to develop a domestic private industry to transport US scientists to the ISS and low-Earth orbit by 2017. If this fails, Bolden said, it would require NASA to renegotiate a contract with the Russians, under which NASA currently pays $70 million for US crew to fly to the ISS.
“American companies are racing each other.” Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada companies are “all racing to see who gets to the finish line and who wins a contract to carry American astronauts and our partner astronauts to the International Space Station, hopefully by 2017,” Bolden said.