When NASA landed the first people on the Moon, it was an achievement that ended the Space Race, and one that could only be completed by either the US or Russian government.
In 2015, NASA is not even the first choice when it comes to the first organisation landing on Mars with people. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and the Chinese government all have major plans in the next ten years involving putting people in rockets and flying them to the Red Planet.
NASA’s administrator Charles Bolden looks to reinsert its goal of reaching Mars first, in a US house budget meeting Bolden claimed NASA main goal was to reach Mars. Bolden said to the committee the organisation still has plans to land there by 2030 with people.
The Curiosity rover has been scouring the planet over the past three years, collecting any and all samples on the Red Planet and sending all information back to NASA. The results have allowed the organisation to confirm underwater ice caverns and in the past large collections of water.
NASA is planning the Asteroid Redirect Mission in 2020, set to put an asteroid in the Moon’s orbit. It will follow that up with tests on robotic infrastructure and new missions beyond the low-orbit area, as it attempts to establish communication and construction networks on Mars.
Speaking on the subject of private companies like Mars One and SpaceX, Bolden said "No commercial company without the support of NASA and government is going to get to Mars."
We cannot tell if that is NASA showing its prominence in the space industry, or literally saying no commercial company will be allowed to send a rocket with people to Mars without approval from the US government, which may not come if the mission is not co-operated by NASA.
This is a worry if space companies start to outperform NASA’s own rockets and personnel, a real issue with the cuts coming to the space department if someone like Republican candidate Ted Cruz wins the Presidential winner in 2016.