No one is idling or twiddling their thumbs at the space agency, and NASA’s Mars manned mission inches closer to a high possibility with each year. There is no doubt that they are gathering up their efforts, working on the capsule, and performing various experiments to make sure humans will be well adjusted to life on the Red Planet.
- The next Mars rover will launch in 2020
- Orion spacecraft passes more testing
- Isolation programs are underway on both the ISS and in Hawaii
- The mission to Mars is set to last 500 days or more
- The earliest launch date is 2023, but 2030 more likely
NASA administrator Charles Bolden has stated that the long-standing dream is certainly getting closer after 40 years worth of efforts to bring man to Mars. We are getting closer each year to seeing a boot print on the dusty and rocky surface where only rovers have so far reached. It would be a mark in the history of mankind, to rival or even surpass Apollo 11’s moon landing.
According to Bolden, “we are further down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA’s history”, a dream of many, including the space agency’s administrator himself who first joined Houston’s Johnson Space Center in the 1980s. It was long ways away back then, but steps are now being made to bring us close to the Red Planet.
Engineers are still developing the Orion capsule meant to carry humans into deep space and to Mars, having just completed a technical and programmatic review (TPR) in order to be deemed as eligible for manned missions. Its parachutes have passed testing, and work is still progressing toward NASA’s ambitious goal.
Scientific developments of both the capsule and the Space Launch Systems (SLS) megarockets, which will aid astronauts in traveling into deep space, make the future mission a likely possibility. In the meantime, more tests and experiments are being conducted to make sure the agency has all the vital information that would be crucial to human survival.
Two astronauts, NASA’s Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornieko, have just completed half of their yearlong isolation on the International Space Station (ISS), meant to test the effect on the human body of long exposure to outer space. It’s set to help scientists gain better understanding of what future astronauts might be in for within the 500 days long mission to Mars, and the psychological and physiological consequences of space.
NASA crew members on the ISS also recently found a way to grow edible lettuce, that offered an insight on growing food away from Earth.
Six more members are currently in isolation in Hawaii, keeping themselves within a dome near the Mauna Loa volcano, and simulating life on Mars for one year, to understand the psychological implications that require teams to stand together in restricted spaces.
The next NASA Mars rover is set to launch in 2020 with the Mars Oxygen ISRU experiment (MOXIE) that will test how to convert carbon dioxide from the Red Planet into carbon monoxide and breathable oxygen.
The space agency is hard at work, and the most optimistic date for a possible launch is April 2023, according to Bolden, but it seems unlikely that such an important step will be rushed. It’s believed that sometimes in the 2030s will be a likelier time for astronauts to don their space suits and embark upon the most thrilling and longest mission in human history.
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