The famed mission of sending humans to Mars has been a major goal of NASA as they have shared their detailed plan to send humans to Mars 15 years from now. You should also know that the space agency has pondered launching a crewed Mars mission for decades without any definite head start or result. We cannot blame the many science fiction stories that have teased the plan as NASA has since failed to deliver.
So When Will We Be Going To Mars?
Regardless of the general belief that we may never make it to Mars, NASA has come with a new plan, and they sure look serious this time. In fact, President Barack Obama challenged the Space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. As we know, other Presidents have actually done the same since the Apollo missions found its way back from the moon. Nevertheless, NASA has confidently affirmed that it is finally prepared to take the Mars shot. According to Dave Newman, NASA’s deputy administrator, “we’re closer than we’ve ever been to landing humans on Mars.”
It is also noteworthy to mention that in October 2015, NASA released its thirty-six page “Journey To Mars” report. The report planned to outline its broad goals. However, its lack of clear deadlines created vehement opposition. During the congressional hearing Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said: “This sounds good, but it is clearly a journey to nowhere until we have the budget, schedule, and the deadlines.”
Newman, as well as other NASA administrators, delivered new details at the Smithsonian conference, and they filled in some of the blank spaces to answer to Smith’s criticism.
It is evident that our chances of getting to Mars in the 2030s are on the high side as NASA has released a new game plan that looks superb.
Let’s see how the Space Agency plans to carry out this great mission.
The good news is that NASA and Lockheed Martin have already constructed the spacecraft that will send humans to Mars, the Super spacecraft is called Orion. It, however, has to go through some series of tests before the journey can be finalized.
According to Newman, the trip is divided into three phases: Earth dependent, proving ground, and Earth Independent
This has to do with today’s tests and analysis that has to do with the effects of space on the human body and conduct experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS). A big part of this phase was astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space since they are going to compare what he went through with his twin brother who remained on the ground.
NASA has a big plan of launching Orion into orbit on top a new super size rocket, pretty much the size of the statue of liberty. The rocket is called the Space Launch System. This plan has been set for 2018, and the goal is to see if the Space Launch System works and how well Orion resists the radiation in space. The mission has been scheduled to last about three weeks, and the spacecraft will be uncrewed throughout the mission.
This is going to be the second test as the space agency had already tested Orion in a shorter mission in 2014. This mission was a success. However, the next mission will go close to the moon and back, and this is sure to subject the spacecraft to harsher conditions.
2023s: The Proving Ground
NASA’s first crewed Orion mission is set for 2023. This is the big year where four astronauts will get to test the spacecraft themselves. According to Dave Newman, NASA is launching an uncrewed mission called the ARM (Asteroid Redirect Mission). The spacecraft has been planned to arrive at a nearby asteroid and take a sample by 2018, then bring it over to the moon’s orbit by 2023. This is sure to give the astronauts something important to do as they can study the rock and help NASA figure out how humans and robots can work together on deep space missions, just like the one on Mars.
In the 2020s, NASA also plans to carry out tests on deep space habitats to experiment with how they’ll have to construct habitats for the surface of Mars.
The 2030s: Earth-independent
NASA plans to become more speculative in the 2030s. They have affirmed and confirmed that they want to launch a crewed, round-trip mission to Mars aboard Orion. According to Newman, the round-trip implies that they are going to bring the astronauts back to earth. The completion of the mission will take about three years, and it will hopefully be the first of the many before they set up a permanent colony on Mars.
It is, however, noteworthy to mention that this mission is not void of challenges. A major problem is how they are going to keep the astronauts safe. The moment humans leave the protective shielding the Earth offers, we become highly prone to the dangers of space. So, keeping the astronauts safe from the high doses of radiation is a primary challenge faced by NASA.
The finances needed to fund the mission is another challenge faced by NASA. Some NASA, as well as other space experts, affirmed that they could place humans on Mars with existing budgets. However, to make the plan a reality, the space agency will need a lot of cash, especially in the years when the astronauts reach Mars.
Now that’s all about NASA for now. Apart from the space agency, there are still other American billionaires who are also involved in the plan of landing humans on Mars prominent among them is Elon Musk.
SpaceX Rocket Company
Mr. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of the SpaceX rocket company, has been talking about his desire to colonize the red planet. SpaceX has the plan to send a Dragon capsule to the red planet in 2018, and this will be the first in a series of uncrewed commercial missions to Mars before the first journey with humans takes place in 2024.
Elon Musk speaking at Code Conference this year mentioned that SpaceX would send a spacecraft to Mars every two years at the start of 2018, as this is when the positions of the planet allow missions to make a straight trip from Earth.
Musk estimated it would cost a whopping $10 billion to develop the rocket, and he also said that the first passengers could take off as early as 2024 if everything goes as planned. As for now, SpaceX is paying development expenses running up to tens of millions of dollars a year, but the company will consequently look to some Public-Private partnership.
Each of the SpaceX vehicles would take up to 100 passengers on the trip to Mars. Trips will be planned every 26 months when the Earth and Mars pass close to each other. Musk said the initial flights would be moderately expensive, but the price of tickets might eventually fall to between $100,000 to $200,000 a person.
According to Musk, “If things go as planned, we should be to launch people in 2024, with an arrival in 2025”.
So far we have explored tons of evidence that answer the big question that has been going through our minds. In summary, NASA and SpaceX have affirmed that our take off to the big red planet is possible and if things go as planned, we are sure to see the results between 2024 to 2030.