NASA just gave out several contracts to companies like Bigelow Aerospace and Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. to develop next generation technologies for space exploration.
Specifically these contracts are for new forms of habitation modules (basically space stations that are attached to your spaceship) and new forms of advanced propulsion, specifically electric propulsion.
This is a very good sign. In order to get to Mars safely and reliably, we need this technology.
One of the new habitation modules by Bigelow will actually be launching a habitation module soon to become a new section of the International Space Station. It’s essentially an inflatable space station in its own right with the capability of locking to hatches on things like the ISS, the Orion crew capsule and even other hab modules.
Approaching habitation technology from the direction of inflatable modules will vastly improve on things like the cost, number and size of space stations we can put into orbit.
NASA mentioned attaching one of these to the Orion and using it as a home for astronauts in a mission to the Moon (in orbit). They’re most likely referring to the asteroid redirect mission which will see NASA put an asteroid in Lunar orbit and then see NASA astronauts land on said asteroid.
Like I said, this is promising to see. Money is finally being dished out to the right people to develop the necessary technology most likely to give NASA Mars-mission capability.