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President-elect Donald Trump will step into his new role during a pivotal time for future space endeavors, with NASA currently planning a Mars mission and preparing to end its dependence on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.
In an interview with Aerospace America earlier this year, Trump called NASA "one of the most important agencies in the United States government for most of my lifetime" and said it should "focus on stretching the envelope of space exploration."
Trump made it clear that while space exploration is important, it wouldn't come at the cost of issues in the United States.
"A lot of what my administration would recommend depends on our economic state. If we are growing with all of our people employed and our military readiness back to acceptable levels, then we can take a look at the timeline for sending more people into space," he told Aerospace America.
The current proposed budget for NASA in 2017 is $19 billion — down $300 million from the previous year but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program.
NASA has laid out its plan for Mars in a 36-page report, detailing milestones the space agency must hit over the next few years to help ensure a successful future trek into deep space.
In the near-term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.
All of this is in addition to the countless experiments being done to understand how the human body and mind can handle a mission that could last years.
Since NASA's shuttle fleet stopped operations in 2011, the space agency has been buying seats aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule in order to send American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
NASA has now has a contract with SpaceX and Boeing to handle the crew missions to the International Space Station, which could happen at the end of next year or in 2018.
Developing a safe and reliable way to send astronauts to space could also be incredibly cost effective for NASA.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner would cost about $58 million per seat, according to NASA. By comparison, a seat aboard the Russian Soyuz has the heftier price tag of $81 million.