NASA has already sent several rovers to Mars, but the ultimate goal is to send man to Mars. However, that's a huge undertaking which requires a ton of resources. NASA, being a government agency, doesn't have the amount of resources at the moment to undertake a manned mission to the red planet, leaving the door wide open for private space companies.
During today's House hearing for the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, former executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Thomas Young was asked how how long it would take NASA to put a human on Mars with the agency's current budget. Young's answer was a simple "never."
In his prepared statement, Young says that "the dominant strategic issue facing the civil space program is human spaceflight." He notes that while we have a human spaceflight program, there's no "credible human space exploration strategy." There is a lot discussion about going to Mars, going back to the moon, and capturing asteroids, but Young says that "there is no credible plan or budget" for such projects.
Co-witness Steven Squyres, who is the Principle Investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission, says that NASA "is being asked to do too much with too little," noting that the agency's budget needs to match the program's content, or else "the result will be wasted effort and delay."
The NASA Authorization Act would cap the agency's spending at just under $17 billion for the next two years, as well as overhaul NASA's management structure and increase Congressional oversight of the agency. However, at this point, it's seems more plausible than ever that private space companies, like SpaceX, will get a man on Mars first.
SOURCE: NASA Watch