NASA has laid out a detailed plan for colonizing Mars in the next couple of decades. In fact, there is a 36-page report that explains exactly what’s needed to make these missions to Mars a reality.
NASA’s ultimate goal is to be “Earth independent,” meaning they want people to go there and stay, not to go for a little while and come back. Mars will be home for these furture explorers.
The journey to Mars involves three major steps, according to NASA. The first is “Earth Reliant” exploration, which is focused on International Space Station (ISS) research. For example, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are completing the first year in space on the station, a major step that would be needed for the Mars missions.
Next, NASA will move into a “Proving Ground.” The agency is already building the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will take humans to Mars, and the Orion spacecraft, which the astronauts will launch in and return to Earth in. Also, in the 2020s, NASA plans to capture an asteroid and have astronauts go and visit it in cislunar space (between Earth and the Moon).
The final step, “Earth Independent,” will take humans into Martian orbit in the 2030s.
“With humans on Mars, we will be able to advance science and technology in ways only dreamed of with current robotic explorers,” says the report.
The Mars missions will be a “collaborative effort” with other countries. The European Space Agency is already involved with the Orion spacecraft, and other countries – perhaps including Russia, Japan, India, and maybe even China – are expected to join too.
NASA currently has about $4 billion (£2.6 billion) per year to develope its manned exploration efforts. When the ISS is retired in the next decade there will be another $4 billion for exploration.
Would you go and live on Mars without a definite date of return to Earth? We want to hear what you think about these plans.