He said he "would be willing to spend more taxpayers' dollars" to continue the program but argued that NASA must do a better job of inspiring the American public, as when it sent a man to the moon in 1969.
McCain said one of his favorite books as a child had been Ray Bradbury's 1950 novel "The Martian Chronicles," about humans colonizing the Red Planet.
"I am intrigued by a man on Mars and I think that it would excite the imagination of the American people if we can say, 'Hey, here's what it looks like," he said.
"We know that now, and here's what may be there and let's all join in that project. I think Americans would be very willing to do that."
Inspire us and lead us unto the heavens.