If Chris Carberry, AS’91, has his way, we will be traveling to Mars.

As a political science major, Carberry didn’t think he had the right stuff for a career in the space program—until he realized he might have exactly what was needed. NASA already had plenty of scientists and engineers, but lacked political advocates for the next wave of space exploration.

And for Carberry, that means Mars.

“The moon is closer, yes,” says Carberry, who in 2010 founded the Beverly, Mass.-based nonprofit Explore Mars. “But Mars is far more interesting.” What we’d learn from a planet with its own atmosphere and frozen water could enlighten humans about how we care for our own planet, Carberry explains, and maybe even change the way we think about ourselves as a country and a people.

Despite a recent Explore Mars poll showing overwhelming American support for space exploration, political obstacles loom large. With the space shuttle retired and Congress focused on cutting costs, Washington seems unwilling to help a new mission take off.

Undaunted, Explore Mars is working to change the mindset in D.C. Last spring, the nonprofit held a national conference to rally the space industry, policymakers, and the public around a mission to Mars.

“It’s going to cost money, no question, and test the technological limits of what we can do right now, but it’s certainly possible,” Carberry says.

“We’re in great need of a boost in national morale,” he says. “We are allowing ourselves to believe that we’re on the decline and that we may no longer be capable of doing great things. I don’t think that’s true, and I believe space exploration can prove that.”