The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is no longer the highly funded juggernaut that it was in the 1960s, and these days private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are becoming more and more important in the development of spacefaring technology.
According to Bezos, this can actually be a good thing for the future of space travel and research, and during a recent on-stage interview during the John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History at the National Air and Space Museum, Bezos said that the government could do more to encourage a private space race for a potential mission to Mars.
Specifically, Bezos said that one possible method the government should consider is to offer a substantial prize for certain milestones.
“I think big prizes would be an interesting thing to do,” Bezos said during his interview. “… One thing that the government could do is just offer a very large prize to whoever first brings back some Mars samples. It would be very interesting. That kind of horse race would create lots of attention. People would compete for it.”
Bezos did not give a specific number for how much prize money the government should offer for a successful mission to Mars, and given the exorbitant cost that such a mission would require, the prize would likely need to be quite high to successfully entice private companies to compete for it.
While Bezos said that Mars is an important scientific goal for NASA, he does not believe that a manned mission is necessary.
“I don’t think you can justify sending men to Mars for science reasons,” Bezos said. “I think we have reached a state where robots can do that task, probably better than people can.”