NASA administrator Charles Bolden said Tuesday that humanity faced certain extinction unless it developed the technology to colonize other planets.
"We today are Earth-reliant," he said at the Humans to Mars Summit 2014, held at George Washington University in Washington. "We are dependent on being on this planet. We are not a multi-planet species yet. I don't know whether Buzz [Aldrin] is going to talk about it later, but Buzz and I agree on a number of things -- one of them is that only multi-planet species survive for long periods of time."
"Here in the Western world, we think very short-sighted. We think about the time in which we are going to be on this Earth, or in which are kids or grandkids are going to be on this Earth. Many other civilizations think much longer than that, and we need to start thinking that way."
He warned the Sun -- like all stars -- had a finite lifespan.
"If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species," he continued. "One reason we need to go to Mars is so we can learn a little about living on another planet, so that when Mikaley my granddaughter is ready to move out of the solar system we will know a lot more about living away from this planet than we know today. Mars is a stepping stone in the approach to other solar systems and other galaxies and things that people have always dreamed of but frequently don't talk about."
The NASA chief said a manned mission to Mars was possible if Congress restored the space agency's budget. NASA plans to send a manned spacecraft to an asteroid by 2025 and then travel to the red planet in the 2030s.
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[Image via NASA/Paul E. Alers]