This question was asked by an audience member at a recent event at the Ri, in which NASA’s chief scientist Dr Ellen Stofan gave an overview of their plans to develop a human exploration pathway to Mars. Here is what she replied:

“Everything we do at NASA, someone has to imagine first. That’s why the arts are such an important part of education, because you have to learn to be creative, to be innovative. We’re trying to do really hard things, trying to get humans down to the surface of Mars… Building models, testing things on a small scale before we ever spend the money to enlarge them up to a big scale is really important.”

Watch the full talk on the Ri Channel now.

FACT: On this day in 1958 the US Congress passed legislation formally inaugurating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

October 4, 1957: Sputnik Launches into Space

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. This launch marked the beginning of the Space Race, where the United States and the Soviet Union competed rapidly to develop new space technology.

Explore NOVA’s Space Race  timeline for an interactive look at the heated competition between the two nations. 

Photo: The world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 was a 183-pound beach ball-sized sphere that took about 98 minutes to orbit Earth (NASA).