NASA has been working on plans to go to Mars for a very long time. A few years ago, they announced their three-part plan to make it happen. This plan involves different stages of getting humans closer to Mars concluding with us stepping on Mars and exploring the potential of colonizing the red planet. The different stages are planned according to the development of technology and other capabilities. Most plans aim to have a manned mission to Mars in the next decade, so we can look forward to some exciting times in the 2030s.
The race to send a manned mission to Mars is an important one for different reasons. It holds economic advantages, collaboration promises, and much more. It also poses the potential to be a solution to problems with depleting resources and climate change.
Stage 1: EARTH RELIANT
The basic idea of this stage is research and experimentation. It involves research conducted on the International Space Station as well as areas on Earth that are similar to Mars. Astronauts stay in isolated areas where the conditions of Mars and isolation are mimicked to see what the effects are on them. The journey and stay on Mars will have both physical and psychological effects and this stage helps NASA learn more about the potential effects.
Some of the tests and research that are being conducted include improving advanced communication systems technology, material flammability tests, life support systems, 3D-printing, in-situ resource utilization development, and the effects on human health and behavior. Tests to improve space suits are also being conducted. When we do get to Mars, we will be exposed to radiation, the toxic dust from the planet surface, and who knows what else. The spacesuits our astronauts will wear needs to protect them
Stage 2: PROVING GROUND
This stage involves experiments in deep space. Astronauts will perform complex operations in the Moon’s orbit which is called cislunar space. This will enable them to perform operations and learn what will be necessary to travel as far as Mars and survive. Several exploration missions and operations will be conducted. One of these is the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission that is planned for 2020. A robot will collect a boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and then astronauts will study it and learn as much as they can.
Other projects will involve developing and testing state of the art information technology solutions and systems testing for a deep-space habitation facility. Research and development will also be done to find the best ways to make use of reduction, reuse, and recycling to reduce the constant need for new materials.
A new rover robot will be sent to join the Curiosity Rover in 2020. The new rover will feature a whole bunch of new and exciting gadgets that will enable us to learn more. A big part of the preparations for a Mars mission is the attempt to make oxygen from the carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. One of the new gadgets will be MOXIE and its main purpose is to try and make oxygen on Mars.
Stage 3: EARTH INDEPENDENT
The last stage of NASA’s mission to Mars plan is the EARTH INDEPENDENT. This entails sending humans to the vicinity or orbit of Mars, its moons and eventually Mars itself. All the information collected from the research on the International Space Station and the experiments and missions in deep space will be used to help send humans to Mars. The estimated timeline aims to put the first people on Mars in 2030.
The mission will be done as a collaborative effort between NASA and other countries and organizations. The mission is too big to be handled by a single organization or country. Not only will it require large amounts of money, but also the knowledge and information gained by different entities.
This stage involves having humans stay on Mars for a long period of time. They will attempt to grow food, create oxygen, and support human life. It will take some time to cultivate and prepare Mars to sustain several humans. A big part of the process is to improve communication and information technology to such an extent that interaction between Earth and Mars will be possible and easy.
A mission to Mars requires the development of several new technologies and equipment. When people land on Earth, they will need to be prepared for the harsh conditions and know how to survive. This will be a risky mission, but it is all worth it if it means we can expand the human race and gain resources.
The biggest problem with the Mars mission is the costs. It will be an exceptionally expensive mission and that is why collaboration will be needed. Some private organizations are funding their own projects and are aiming to beat NASA to Mars. One of these private entities is SpaceX run by Elon Musk. He aims to send humans to Mars within the next 10 years or so.
A mission to Mars is within our reach. Living on Mars is also a definite possibility, but that will probably only happen many years in the future. Sustaining a human population will take hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. There are still many years of research and experiments to be done before the dream of living on Mars can become a reality.
If you would like to get an idea of what it would be like to live on Mars, read this article about the books and films written about living on Mars.