According to senior figures at the space agency, the idea of sending astronauts to Mars could soon become reality.
NASA chiefs have heralded progress towards sending humans to the Red Planet, and expect the first manned mission to take place in the 2030s, writes Ed Mazza for The Huffington Post.
Mars mission could come sooner than previously thought
“We are farther down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA’s history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at an event last week, according to . “We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we’ll get there.”
A huge part of that work is the development of rockets and spacecraft capable of making a return journey to Mars with humans on board. Testing of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft is ongoing.
Before astronauts can make the trip, other tests need to be completed. The next-generation Mars rover, which is scheduled for launch in 2020, will take the Mars Oxygen ISRU experiment to the Red Planet.
The experiment is known as MOXIE, and will process carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere and turn it into oxygen. Should the system prove successful, astronauts will be provided with sufficient oxygen to breathe and the rockets will be able to use the gas to bring them back to Earth.
“We’re going to make oxygen on another planet — the first time ever to make oxygen on another planet,” said NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman, according to The Space Reporter. “These experiments — they’re real, they’re here.”
ISS astronauts get early screening of “The Martian” movie
Writer Andy Weir, whose book, “The Martian,” has since been made into a movie starring Matt Damon, attended the NASA event. He believes that the main hurdle to a manned mission to Mars is funding, and given adequate investment we could see the first human on the Red Planet in the 2030s.
“But I don’t have faith in Congress to give them enough money to make that happen, so I’m being a little more conservative,” Weir toldlast month. He believes that 2050 is a more realistic arrival date.
Movie-goers will be able to see “The Martian” from 2 October, but a select group of viewers got a sneak preview this weekend. Astronauts on board the International Space Station watched the film, although it is unlikely that any of the group will take part in the first mission to Mars.