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Here’s how NASA Wants to get to Mars

NASA unveils roadmap to building a Mars colony

(NASA/JPL/Michael Benson/Kinetikon Pictures/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

For decades, NASA has been working to send humans to Mars. Now, the space agency has revealed a detailed plan for how to get there by the 2030s.

In a new report titled "Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration," the space agency lays out a three-stage program for developing the technology and logistics necessary to reach Mars and establish a sustainable colony on the planet’s surface. While there is no set date for a crewed mission, NASA scientists hope to have colonists working and living on Mars within the next few decades.

“Like the Apollo program, we embark on this journey for all humanity,” NASA writes in the report. “Unlike Apollo, we will be going to stay.”

The report outlines three major phases that will hopefully lead to an operational Mars colony. The first, titled the “Earth Reliant” stage, is already underway aboard the International Space Station as NASA continues to test new technologies that might make a deep-space mission possible.

Of particular interest, is how the human body holds up during long-term space missions, Avaneesh Pandey writes for International Business Times. Currently, space agencies only allow astronauts to spend a limited amount of time aboard the space station since the extended radiation exposure and weightlessness can tax the human body.

NASA is also working on developing new ways to power and communicate with vessels destined for deep space, like solar-powered engines and lasers for rapid communications with Earth. 

In the second stage, called “Proving Ground,” NASA will learn how to perform complex tasks during longer missions into deep space. They'll venture beyond the space station, mainly working in the space around the moon. The goals for this stage include testing deep-space habitation facilities as well as capturing an asteroid and bringing it back into orbit.

The final “Earth Independent” stage will mark the launch of NASA's first manned spacecraft to orbit Mars and eventually establish a Martian colony, Sarah Knapton reports for The Telegraph.

While the report lays out a road map for the years ahead, there is still a lot of work to be done before people can safely voyage to Mars. But according to NASA's report, it will be worth the wait: "With humans on Mars, we will be able to advance science and technology in ways only dreamed of with current robotic explorers." 

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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