After years of discussion, NASA has finally released their detailed plans to send astronauts to Mars.
Although progress has been made, the first astronauts to visit the Red Planet may actually spend up to three years in a Mars spaceship without ever touching down. The plan requires building an outpost that will orbit the moon to test Mars hardware. NASA is spending approximately $40 billion to develop the hardware, but hasn’t released how they are planning to use it.
Last month President Trump signed a law mandating that NASA send people to Mars by the year 2033. The program developed by NASA will only have astronauts orbiting the planet by that time, not attempting a landing.
The plan is comprised of five phases.
We are currently in phase zero which involves testing the capabilities and operations at the International Space with partners including Boeing and SpaceX.
Phase one will include six launches between the years 2018 and 2025.
Phase two calls for launching a Deep Space Transport to the lunar space station in 2027. Followed by four astronauts will spending up to 400 days inside the tube orbiting near the moon.
Phase three is scheduled to begin in 2030 when another flight would restock supplies and fuel on the spaceship. This phase also involves the first crew visit to Mars, but not a touchdown.
The final level of the plan, phase four, is somewhat vague at this time. We do know that the first eventual Mars human landing mission will take place in this stage, sometime after the 2033.
Only time will tell if NASA will be able to pull off this plan. The private sector even may make the monumental landing first as the founder of SpaceX has publicized plans to send people to Mars by 2022.
Photo courtesy of Noupload, (CC0)
Chamberlain Smith is a science intern and a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.