President Donald Trump wants to get aggressive in the race to Mars, and he has signed into law a new goal for when he wants NASA to reach the red planet. As one of the few federal agencies that will not be seeing a budget cut, NASA will instead benefit from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which funds research and development with $19.5 billion and gets humans to Mars by 2033.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz [R-TX] and introduced back in mid-February. It has already climbed through the house and senate, and it reached the President's desk on March 9. As a law, it grants NASA authority to further research space exploration and pursue contracts with private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, but more importantly, it specifically calls for a manned flight to Mars in 2033.

NASA shall contract with an independent, non-governmental systems engineering and technical assistance organization to study the feasibility of the launch of a human space flight mission to Mars in 2033.

Such study shall include:

  • a technical development, test, fielding, and operations plan using the SLS, Orion, and other systems to successfully launch such a mission to Mars by 2033; and
  • an annual budget profile, including cost estimates, for the technical development, test, fielding, and operations plan to carry out such a mission.

NASA shall submit an assessment by the NASA Advisory Council as to whether the proposal for the launch of a human space flight mission to Mars in 2033 is in the strategic interests of the United States in space exploration.

Tesla and SpaceX's Elon Musk was not impressed with the law, saying that nothing really changes from what NASA was already doing.