NASA reveals its first plans to send two astronauts to the surface of Mars

NASA reveals its first plans to send two astronauts to the surface of Mars

During a high-level conference on NASA’s goals for human space exploration, we got our first glimpse of what a 30-day crewed mission to the surface of Mars could possibly look like.

It’s an exciting prospect that, albeit many years, if not decades away, shows the agency’s commitment to fulfilling humanity’s dreams of setting foot on the red planet for the first time. story.

NASA Director of Space Architectures Kurt “Spuds” Vogel described what such a mission could entail. The agency envisions a habitat spacecraft to make the months-long journey there, which uses a hybrid rocket stage that combines chemical and electrical propulsion.

Two crew members would remain in orbit while two others would visit the surface of Mars. The latter would have access to supplies sent to the surface beforehand via a 25-ton Mars lander, providing power and surface mobility, as well as a powered pre-deployed crew ascent vehicle to deliver them both. in orbit later.

To actually spend up to an Earth month on the desolate Martian surface, Vogel suggests the two crew members could live inside a pressurized rover that would provide habitation and also allow them to fulfill scientific purposes.

“Our assumption here is that the crew will be deconditioned,” Vogel told the conference, “and we’ll need that much time to adjust to partial gravity.”

Gravity on Mars is only about a third of that on Earth.

“So we want to maximize the science so they can drive before they’re conditioned enough to get into the spacesuits and walk and maximize that science in 30 days,” he added.

In the not-too-distant future, missions to Mars could range from just 30 days on the surface, which would take just under two Earth years to complete accounting for travel times, to nearly 500 days on the surface. , long-term assignments. it could take 916 days.

Unsurprisingly, Vogel and his team concluded that 30 days on the surface was much more feasible, given the astronomical amount of logistics and cost involved.

NASA hopes to take what we eventually learn from exploring the Moon’s surface and apply it to spending time on the Martian surface.

But before launching such missions, the space agency has a mountain of work ahead of it. NASA is only beginning to prepare to launch its Artemis I mission, an uncrewed trip around the moon and back, with a maiden voyage of its SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft scheduled for later this year.

From there, NASA plans to establish a more permanent presence on the Moon, the Lunar Gateway, as a springboard to transfer astronauts to the surface, and eventually develop the Transit Habitat, a conceptual spacecraft intended to house astronauts on their much, much longer journey to Mars.

In other words, it could be a very, very long time before we have a more concrete idea of ​​what a crewed trip to the Martian surface might look like.

But the space agency is clearly doing its homework and is now seeking input and feedback on its ambitious schedule.

READ MORE: NASA invites comments on Moon-to-Mars targets, comments expected May 31 [NASA]

Learn more about Mars: Goodnight Sweet Prince: NASA officially kills its Mars lander

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