A Path to Mars: Political Endurance


In the midst of political uncertainty, a small Boeing team used Lean+ principles to develop and execute a strategic plan to protect our Space Exploration program.



Space Exploration is a marathon, requiring decades of focus. While NASA has set its eyes on Mars and beyond, Boeing must face the challenge of the White House and Capitol Hill to ensure ongoing support of our historic journey to deep space – all during an election season that could upset funding for years.

Eight years ago, a new presidential administration resulted in changes to Boeing space exploration contracts, putting NASA's entire Deep Space program in jeopardy.


With billions of dollars at risk, the team adopted a new approach to building awareness and positioning the Boeing space exploration program with the government to keep it sold.

Our strategy is to capture the imagination and support of key influencers in Washington, D.C., so that Boeing will always be the natural choice for future contracts.

Because of our work, Boeing is prepared to meet the newly elected officials and their transition teams on Nov. 9.


While promising massive rockets and colonies on Mars, the reality is, our competitors are new to the business of deep space. Our loudest competitor said the first astronauts will likely die. When asked if he himself will go to Mars, his response was that he would have to ensure "a good succession plan."

When Boeing talks about Mars, we point to our heritage and continued successes connecting and protecting people worldwide. We don’t see human life as the fuel for space travel, but the very reason for it. Our priority is to get humans safely there and bring them safely home to Earth.

Only Boeing has the experience to do this.

We are leveraging the differences between Boeing and our competition. We have transitioned from the center pack of partners to the left, aligning with NASA and embracing the leadership role our heritage has earned us.

Boeing is truly collaborating with NASA for the good of the United States. It will take a nation to get to Mars, not one company acting alone.

With this inspiring, educational, and influential video, we positioned Chris Ferguson as the hero he is, giving our message instant credibility. Boeing is the authority. Also, our new space architect, Matt Duggan, has become a key influencer with his appearance in this video.


Our key advantage is our alignment with NASA and deep understanding of their goals, better than any of our competitors. We are shifting beyond partnership and collaboration, to taking the lead not only to influence our NASA customer, but also to help them with those they answer to: Congress, the president, and the American people.

Boeing is the clear choice to recover American leadership in space. Boeing can be trusted to deliver promises and get us to Mars and back to Earth safely.

Political Endurance: We must communicate a clear path to Mars as administrations change in Washington, D.C.

Boeing is demonstrating leadership as we make the case for political endurance while keeping the world engaged in travel to Mars.


How do you maintain interest, keep a program alive, educate newly elected officials and their staffs, inspire a new president, and excite the general public? All with a complex subject?

We did so with smart, clear, and concise multimedia collateral, print and video.


  • "This isn’t science fiction; we’re building real hardware right now, and NASA has a solid plan to get there."

    —John Elbon, VP & GM, Boeing Space Exploration

  • ‎"The first human to land on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket."

    —Dennis Muilenburg, CEO, The Boeing Company

  • ‎"Remain No. 1 in space exploration, where it will be about price integrated with safe, reliable and assured travel."

    —Leanne Caret, Pres./CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security

  • "NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history."

    —Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator

  • "NASA is on an ambitious expansion of human space flight; we’re utilizing innovation, skill and knowledge of both government and private sectors."

    —Jason Crusan, NASA Advanced Exploration Systems

  • "We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth."

    —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States


Our team, guided by Lean+ principles, has accomplished quantifiable results under a tight time schedule. We have effectively established Boeing as the Space Exploration leader and positioned our company to win. We are extremely proud of our numbers.

Our work directly led to the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 Authorizing $19.5 Billion to NASA. On March 21, 2017 - President Trump signs NASA bill aimed at sending people to Mars.

Los Angeles Times: Mars Feature Story
Working with NASA and POTUS to 'Keep it Sold' Dennis Muilenburg and John Elbon quoted are quoted, as President Obama says getting humans to Mars is a partnership between NASA and companies like Boeing.
View—LA Times Feature - Oct. 11, 2016

AIAA Space Forum Plenary: Mars
John Elbon participated as a distinguished panelist at the SPACE 2016 FORUM, where he debuted the new Path to Mars video featuring Chris Ferguson and Matt Duggan.
View Livestream video in it's entirety — Sept. 15, 2016

The world can learn our story and see A Path to Mars content on the Boeing advocacy website BeyondEarth.com
View Content

National Geographic: Space
The article features Boeing Vice President and General Manager of Space Exploration John Elbon.
View Content - November 2016

USA Today special report on Mars
“Mars in 2033: Here We Come.”

Boeing, Aerospace icon marks its centenial with good representation in this special edition as NASA gears up for deep space exploration

View Content - October 2016

Aerospace America: Setting the Pace to Mars
With so much being said about exploring the Red Planet, Aerospace America invited Boeing executive John Elbon to help make sense of it all.
View Content - November 2016

Condé Nast Traveller: Boeing to Mars Before SpaceX
The race to the Red Planet is on.

View Content - October 5, 2016

TechCrunch: A New Private Space Race
Boeing CEO says he’ll beat SpaceX to Mars.

View Content - October 5, 2016

Business Insider: Boeing will beat SpaceX
Boeing will beat SpaceX to Mars.
October 6, 2016

View Content - October 6, 2016

Space.com: Boeing Eyes Moon-Orbiting Space Station as Waypoint to Mars
Boeing has a grand plan to build a crewed space station in orbit around the moon.

View Content - September 27, 2016


Our rapid, proactive, and strategic preparation ahead of key events in 2016 has helped Boeing differentiate from our competitors. We have increased the probability of continued funding for the SLS and, most significantly, placed Boeing firmly as the innovative leader in space exploration, positioned to capture more of the market share of future business.


Our team successfully got our NASA-Boeing A Path to Mars story out 13 days ahead of Elon Musk’s “big space announcement” in Mexico, enabling the media to compare Boeing’s credible story to Musk's dream. The material helped media to compare Musk’s presentation to Boeing’s plan, and highlighted why the Boeing plan, based on basic proven physics, makes sense.


In the first month, organic views of our A Path to Mars video spiked during conferences and when media stories hit, causing viewership by people that matter—without paying for them to watch.


We received a dozen major media stories, receiving coverage around the world, in the month prior to the Nov. 8 election. These included major pieces in Aerospace America and USA Today. Most recently, National Geographic interviewed Boeing Space Exploration Vice President and General Manager John Elbon for its space issue.

Because of the team’s work, Boeing has more influential messaging and talking points to leverage than our competitors. We are now firmly positioned to quickly take our message—keeping SLS sold—to Capitol Hill legislators and to the transition team after the election.


Boeing is a NASA NextSTEP partner. We have won STEP-1, receiving funding to research and develop our A Path to Mars ideas. In August, we won STEP-2, funds to build our habitation module and ground demonstrator, a test facility here on Earth for cislunar space habitat. We are now competing for the "winner-take-all" STEP-3 award to put hardware together for space.


Our strategy is boosting the value of the International Space Station—keeping it Sold! As we work to extend the ISS for eight more years from 2020 to 2028, this means more Starliner missions and eight more years of Commercial Crew business.


Boeing and NASA united 15 nations with the International Space Station. Now we are replicating learnings from that success in A Path to Mars with our international collaborators and commercial partners.


With our subtle influence, the media came to realize that Elon Musk's concepts are remarkably similar to those presented by Wernher von Braun in the 1940s. We quietly reminded the media of von Braun's early conjectures, which draw verbatim comparison to the Musk plan.


Days to influence the transition team, between Election Day and Inauguration Day. We have properly prepared and will execute relentlessly during this window of opportunity.


Friday, Jan. 20, marks the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America. Our team, the space exploration program and leadership have been proactive and committed to this so that the new POTUS will keep us on A Path to Mars.