Now we have a glimpse of NASA’s latest vision for its first crewed mission to Mars.
The agency released its key goals for a 30-day, two-person surface mission to Mars on Tuesday (May 17) and asked the public to comment on how the planning is progressing. Submissions were originally due to be submitted on May 31, but that deadline was recently extended to June 3.
NASA aims to send astronauts to Mars by the late 2030s or early 2040s. Making that vision a reality will be a challenge. Assuming funding and technology come into play at the right time, for example, the round-trip travel time would still be around 500 days given the distance between Earth and Mars.
Related: How living on Mars would challenge colonists (infographic)
Gravity – or lack thereof – would also be an issue, as current-gen spacecraft look nothing like the ones seen in movies like “The Martian” (2015). Astronauts will arrive on the Red Planet after months in microgravity and face a significant road to recovery, even operating in Mars’ partial gravity, which is about a third of Earth’s. NASA suggests that one way to solve this problem could be to have crews live in a pressurized rover during their mission.
“We want to maximize the science so they can drive before they’re conditioned enough to get into the space suits, and walk and maximize that science in 30 days,” said Kurt Vogel, director of space architectures at NASA, in a 30-minute YouTube video accompanying the data release.
The mission plan is in its early stages and could change significantly. But so far, NASA plans to use a habitat-like spacecraft to ferry crew members to the Red Planet, using a hybrid rocket stage (powered by both chemical and electric propulsion) . Four people would make the long journey, two of whom would land on the surface, somewhat similar to the pattern seen in the Apollo program with three astronauts.
About 25 tons of supplies and equipment would be ready and waiting for the crew, delivered by a previous robotic mission. Those supplies would include a crew ascent vehicle, already fueled and ready to go for astronauts to leave Mars and return to orbit around the planet.
NASA does not yet publish a standard RFI or formal contracting process for this concept mission. After all, the agency is focused on launching its uncrewed Artemis 1 mission to prepare for astronaut missions to the Moon in the 2020s. to March.)
But more contributions from Mars stakeholders are forthcoming. The agency has committed to hosting a workshop in June “with partners from US industry and academia,” who are individually invited by NASA. Invited international organizations can also intervene during a workshop in July.
You can see more details about NASA’s goals (there are 50 in all) before submitting your comments on this website, through June 3.
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