This is ground control to Major Zacharie

This is ground control to Major Zacharie

When NASA goes to Mars in 2030, our kids will be on board.

Think about it. It’s 15 years until the mission. Kids who are now in school, will be into their 20s and 30s by the time the mission is ready. Once things really get going, they’ll be into their 40s. They’ll be smart enough, fit enough, and experienced enough to be on that mission.

Our kids are going to Mars. What our parents witnessed as children in the moon landing, we are about to witness for the red planet.

Charlie's already volunteering

Charlie’s already volunteering

And NASA is all in.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has all the space artifacts of the past, but the future is Mars. You can wander the wonderful Rocket Garden, get up close in an area devoted to the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and take a tour of the launch pad and VAB, but Mars is on the mind.

When you drive out to see the launch pads from which Apollo and shuttle missions launched, new rockets are being constructed and tested in the area to go to Mars.

Zacharie staring off at a launch pad, dreaming of Mars

Zacharie staring off at a launch pad, dreaming of Mars

The Space Launch System (SLS) is the next generation rocket that NASA is building, and the tours all talk about how it will be used to fly beyond the moon, land on an asteroid, and then fling beyond – to Mars.

One bus ride had the tour guide doing the math for the ages of the kids who will be on those missions to Mars. Today’s teenagers (and younger) are tomorrow’s Mars Explorers.

Seriously.

Explorers Wanted indeed.

Explorers Wanted indeed.

There’s a kid in Grade 11 or Grade 6 or Grade 3 today who will set foot on Mars very very soon. It’s going to happen.

It’s similar to the kind of PR offensive NASA went on in advance of the Apollo missions to the moon. From the Mars branding spreading across the site to education modules for teachers to bring Mars into the classroom, the ground work is being set to tell us Mars is next.

Running the walkway to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center

Running the walkway to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center

Charlie's excited for his shuttle ride

Charlie’s excited for his shuttle ride

Ready for lift off

Ready for lift off

Rolling in zero G on the International Space Station.

Rolling in zero G on the International Space Station.

Mars is about to be big business for the coming years, and not just from NASA. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to stand on the moon, is all about Mars exploration. He’s devoting the last decades of his life to inspire people to reach deeper into the solar system.

He’s written a book for National Geographic Kids to inspire kids to go to Mars.  Elon Musk wants in too. He has said he wants “to die on Mars,” and later this year will unveil SpaceX plans to reach for the red planet.

All the messaging is working. The marketing is saying our kids will go to Mars. And now my kids want to go to Mars.

When we got home from our trip to Florida, there was a Playmobil City Action Space Rocket with Launch Site waiting.

Zacharie spent an hour building it at the kitchen table (it was a good challenge, that required committed attention to build). And then, as Z and Charlie engage in free play with it in the basement, they’re dreaming of going to Mars, not just going ‘to space’ or ‘to the moon.’

Playmobil City Space Shuttle

Our kids are going to Mars.

It’s awesome and terrifying and awesome all at the same time. Will it be as stark as Matt Damon‘s experience in The Martian? Will it really be a one way trip? Will we make it?

Well, we’re going to try and the welcome wagon is already en route. From rovers to explorers to robots to the Most Interesting Man In the World; already on his way, bringing the beer.

Disclosure: We received 2 complimentary admissions to Kennedy Space Center and the Playmobil set was given for review. I’m a National Geographic Kids Insider. All words and opinions are my own.

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