By: April Carson
During a high-level presentation on NASA's goals for human space exploration, we got an early look at what a 30-day crewed mission to the surface of Mars might possibly entail.
According to NASA, the main objectives of a 30-day mission to Mars would be to collect data on the Martian environment and set up a "human presence" on the planet. This would involve deploying scientific instruments, establishing communications systems, and conducting initial reconnaissance of potential habitation sites.
It's a thrilling prospect that, while far in the future, demonstrates NASA's dedication to making humanity's aspirations of walking on Mars a reality for the first time.
NASA's director of space architecture Kurt "Spuds" Vogel explained what such a mission would entail. The agency is considering building a habitat spacecraft to send humans to Mars in months, which will use a hybrid rocket stage that combines chemical and electric propulsion for the trip.
"This would be a long-duration mission, perhaps 30 days or so on the surface," Vogel said. "We're looking at all aspects of the mission architecture to see what's required for such a venture."
The agency is also working on developing technologies that would allow astronauts to live and work on Mars for extended periods of time.
"Ultimately, we want to be able to send humans to Mars for sustained periods of time, and we're developing the technology needed to make that happen," Vogel said.
A crew of two would stay in orbit while another two went to the surface of Mars. The latter would have access to supplies delivered to the surface ahead of time via a 25-ton Mars lander, allowing them to provide surface power and mobility as well as a fueled up pre-deployed crew ascent vehicle for later return.
After spending up to an Earth month on the barren Martian surface, Vogel suggests that the crew members could live in a pressurized rover that would give them shelter and enable them to complete scientific objectives.
"We think the crew will be deconditioned," Vogel said during the session, "and we'll need as much time as possible to adjust to reduced gravity."
The gravity on Mars is roughly a third of that on Earth.
"So we'd like to optimize the science so that they can drive around before they've been conditioned enough to enter space suits and walk, which will help us maximize that science in 30 days," he concluded.
Missions to Mars are expected to last around 30 days on the surface, which will take roughly two Earth years to complete if you subtract in travel times, or nearly 500 days on the surface and long-stay missions that may require 916 days if factoring out travel time.
Given the colossal amount of logistics and expenses involved, it's no surprise that Vogel and his colleagues determined that 30 days on the surface was a more realistic goal. But as always with space exploration, the more we learn, the more we realize just how much we don't know.
"It's a pretty ambitious goal," said Scott Hubbard, a former NASA Ames director who's now a professor at Stanford University. "I think it's doable, but it's going to take an amazing effort."
NASA is hoping to apply what we'll learn from going to the Moon's surface in the future to exploring Mars.
But before any such missions may begin, NASA has a mountain of work ahead of it. The Artemis I mission, an unmanned trip around the Moon and back with a SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft launch later this year, is just getting started.
The Moon is being sought as a site for NASA's next generation of space stations, with plans to permanently establish the Lunar Gateway as a stepping stone to move people down to the surface and, eventually, construct the Transit Habitat, a speculative spacecraft intended to house astronauts on their much longer journey to Mars.
It might be a long time before we get a more concrete idea of what a crewed trip to the Martian surface may look like in practice. But in the meantime, NASA has given us a tantalizing glimpse into its earliest plans for such a historic mission.
The International Space Station has been operational for a decade, and NASA is now seeking input and feedback on its aggressive schedule. The space agency plans to establish a permanent presence on Mars within 25 years, with human missions to the Martian surface to follow.
"We want to get there in the next 25 years, and we think that's an achievable goal," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden during a press conference on Tuesday. "But it's going to take international cooperation, it's going to take the best and the brightest minds."
About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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