Your grandparents may have been alive for the moon landing, but it turns out there’s a good chance you’ll live to see the Mars landing.
NASA just released a detailed plan on how it expects to put a human being on the red planet by 2030. Needless to say, it’s pretty daunting.
The three-step process begins right here on Earth in a phase called “Earth Reliant.” During this phase, already-available technologies will be tested, innovated and pushed to their limit, with a particular focus on long-term space travel. Think life support systems, 3-D printing technologies, next-gen spacesuits and so forth.
The reason this phase is so important is because astronauts are currently limited to how much time they can spend in orbit over fears that space radiation causes cancer. Many astronauts also suffer vision damage upon returning to Earth because micro-gravity can cause pressure to buildup in the optic nerve and even lead to bone loss.
After NASA ensures its crew can survive out there for an extended period of time, the next phase of the plan will take place in “cislunar space” (a fancy term for the area around the moon). NASA will put the knowledge it picked up in phase one to use, but in an environment where the crew can return to Earth much faster than if they were on Mars. Asteroid samples from around the moon will be collected and analyzed by astronauts, mimicking the same kind of work they would do in deep space. Think of it like a kind of dress rehearsal.
Then, in the “Earth Dependent” phase, astronauts will travel to one of Mars’ moons before touching down on the planet itself. The journey will take months and will require some technologies that haven’t even been invented yet. One version of the plan, for example, calls for the crew and supplies to be blasted off separately, while another calls for them to go at the same time.
“We are on a journey to Mars,” reads the report. “In the next few decades, NASA will take steps toward establishing a sustainable human presence beyond Earth, not just to visit but to stay.”
Since these missions can last up to 1,100 days, some technologies will already be in place when the astronauts arrive. NASA reports some hardware will have to be setup years in advance. Once on the ground, crews will have to use these devices to convert martian resources into oxygen, water, building materials and gas.
But hey, unlike the Mars One mission, at least these guys get a return ticket.