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Humans started exploring the red planet in the 1960s to learn what it could teach us. By the 2030s, NASA wants to set foot on Mars for the first time.
It has captivated us for millennia, motivating astronomers, science fiction writers, and quite a few astrophysicists who have ideas for their own Mars missions. Will we ever actually set foot on the red planet, where a year is 687 days long?
The Answer as NASA suggests is Yes. As stated in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and the U.S. National Space Policy, both of which were released in 2010, NASA is currently building the technologies necessary to transport humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.
The most recent NASA plan for the first crewed Mars trip is now partially visible.
On May 17, the organisation announced(opens in new tab) its primary goals for a 30-day, two-person Mars surface expedition and requested input from the general public on the planning process. The intended deadline for submissions was May 31, but it then extended to June 3.
By the end of the 2030s or the beginning of the 2040s, NASA hopes to send astronauts to Mars. It will be difficult to realise that vision. Given the distance between Earth and Mars, the round-trip journey time would still be 500 days, assuming the finance and technology are available at the correct moment.
As we further establish our presence in the solar system, Mars is a rich location for scientific research and robotic and human exploration. Its genesis and evolution are similar to Earth’s, teaching us more about the past and destiny of our own planet. Mars formerly possessed favourable circumstances for life. Future research may find signs of life, providing an answer to one of the fundamental questions of the cosmos: Is there life elsewhere in the universe?
Diverse methods are being used in three different spheres of space to look for extraterrestrial life. The investigation of potentially habitable regions of the Solar System using robotic and spacecraft probes comes first. The second is the discovery of global changes in exoplanet atmospheres caused by microbial metabolism, with the majority of the targets being Earth-like terrestrial planets within 20 or 30 parsecs.
The third step is looking for tangible artefacts, thermal signatures, pulsed radio and optical transmissions, or other technological traces left by extraterrestrial civilizations. This third search has a wide range of targets that cover much of the galaxy. The likelihood that each of these tactics will be effective as well as the timeframe for that result are stated as rough estimations.
All calculations make the assumption that life will develop given the right environmental factors and chemical components. The James Webb Space Telescope that has gone online and a number of massive ground-based telescopes that will go online later this decade are the strongest short-term prospects for finding biomarkers in extraterrestrial atmospheres. The best possibilities of discovery are with super-Earths circling red dwarf stars. The next best chance will come from the early next decade’s search for relic evidence of life in old Mars rocks that have been returned to Earth. Missions to a number of potentially habitable places in the outer Solar System could then look for biomarkers.
The article on Astrobiology explains in detail how the search is being carried out.
Mars calls to us. It radiates with a reddish glow of reflected sunlight in the night sky, beckoning to our curiosity and spirit of exploration as the closest, most Earth-like world to our own. It has some atmosphere, and on a warm day at noon, the earth can get as hot as 25 °C. As on Earth, a day has roughly 24 hours, but that’s where the similarity ends. There is little insulation in that atmosphere, which is 95 percent unbreathable carbon dioxide at less than one percent of Earth’s atmospheric pressure. Winter nights there can be 140 degrees below zero. Mars has a mass one-tenth that of Earth, hence its gravitational attraction is just one-third that of Earth.
Since modern spaceships don’t resemble those in films like “The Martian,” gravity — or the lack thereof — would also be an issue (2015). After spending months in microgravity, the astronauts will finally reach Mars, but even in Mars’ partial gravity, which is around one-third that of Earth, they will have a long road to recovery. NASA suggests that one approach to this problem would be to have the crews spend their journey inside a pressurised rover.
We want to maximise the science, so we let them drive around until they are fit enough to don spacesuits, walk about, and do that in 30 days. NASA’s director of space architectures, Kurt Vogel Said this.
Sending men to Mars after the Apollo Moon missions in the 1970s felt like the inevitable next step, but it would be politically and economically a “great leap.” Space is vast; whereas it only took the Apollo astronauts four days to reach the Moon, it would take current technology around nine months to travel to Mars. A whole mission may take two or three years to complete by the time the planets are in a favourable alignment for a return. The astronauts would require nutrition, hydration, and oxygen as well as radiation protection during that duration.
Robot mission success rates currently do not encourage confidence. Five unmanned landers were among the 21 Mars rockets that Russia has launched so far, but only two orbiters have successfully completed their missions. With only five missions lost in 23 attempts, the US has had greater success. But a return mission hasn’t yet been sent. Undoubtedly, there is much work to be done before we can consider sending people to Mars. But eventually, we must leave. Within 20 years, if there was political will. One thing that can be done in the interim is to gauge people’s capacity for such a mission psychologically.
The Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov currently holds the record for the longest space mission. Valeri Polyakov spent 437 days in space before returning to Earth from Mir in March 1995. Such an accomplishment is both a physical and mental test of the human body’s capacity to survive the bone and muscle atrophy brought on by zero gravity. Additionally, while communication with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) is quick and easy due to the short time it takes radio signals to travel to and from Earth, astronauts on Mars will feel much more alone due to the longer travel time, which will increase the psychological strain of being confined with a small team.
To assess their impact on individuals, these testing scenarios have been recreated on Earth. Between 2007 and 2011, a Russian, European, and Chinese project called Mars 500 was housed in an isolation facility in a Moscow parking lot. Six male volunteers spent 520 days there as the event’s climax. They consistently claimed to be in good health, although some avoided exercise, some hid from their peers, and four had trouble falling asleep.
The most recent simulation, called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, was conducted for NASA by the University of Hawaii and took place 2,500 metres up the side of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii’s Mars-like landscape. On August 28, 2016, a six-person crew made their way out of that seclusion after a year. They were only permitted to go on mock Mars walks if dressed in a full space suit; otherwise, they were confined to a 100 square metre geodesic dome. The crew in the isolated Concordia station in Antarctica is routinely evaluated by the European Space Agency to determine the effects of confinement throughout the protracted, dark polar winter.
The mission plan is in the early stages and could change considerably. But so far, NASA envisions using for a habitat-like spacecraft to ferry crewmembers to the Red Planet, using a hybrid rocket stage (powered by both chemical and electrical propulsion). Four people would make the long journey, with two alighting on the surface, somewhat similar to the model seen in the Apollo Program with three astronauts
A previous robotic mission had delivered approximately 25 tonnes of supplies and hardware to the crew. These supplies would include a crew ascent vehicle that is already fueled and ready to go, allowing the astronauts to leave Mars and return to orbit around the planet.
For this mission concept, NASA has not yet issued a standard request for information or formal contract process. After all, the agency is focused on launching its unmanned Artemis 1 mission in preparation for astronaut missions to the moon in the 2020s. (NASA has stated that moon work is critical to preparing for Mars.)
Assume you are an astronaut who has just landed on the planet Mars. What would you require to live? Here’s a short list to get you started: Water, food, shelter, and oxygen are all necessities. The air we breathe on Earth contains oxygen. Plants and certain bacteria provide it for us.
However, oxygen is not the only gas present in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s not even the most plentiful. In fact, oxygen makes up only 21% of our air. Almost all of the rest is nitrogen (78%).
You may be wondering why we breathe oxygen when there is more nitrogen in the air.In theory, when you breathe in, you take in everything in the atmosphere. However, your body only uses oxygen; the rest is expelled when you exhale.
The Martian atmosphere is extremely thin, accounting for only 1% of the volume of the Earth’s atmosphere. To put it another way, Mars has 99% less air than Earth. This is due in part to Mars being roughly half the size of Earth. Its gravity is insufficient to prevent atmospheric gases from escaping into space.
Carbon dioxide is the most abundant gas in that thin air. At high concentrations, that is a poisonous gas for people on Earth. Fortunately, it accounts for much less than 1% of our atmosphere. However, carbon dioxide makes up 96% of the air on Mars!
Meanwhile, Mars has almost no oxygen; it accounts for only one-tenth of one percent of the air, which is insufficient for humans to survive.
You would instantly perish if you attempted to breathe without a spacesuit providing oxygen on the surface of Mars. Your blood would start to boil and you would start to choke at roughly the same moment due to the low atmospheric pressure.
MOXIE, a remarkable instrument that converts carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen, is one of the seven instruments on board the Perseverance rover.
Future astronauts may be able to produce their own oxygen as well as use it as a component of the rocket fuel they’ll need to return to Earth if MOXIE performs as experts anticipate it would. The more oxygen that can be produced on Mars, the less they will need to transport from Earth and the more accessible it will be for people to travel there. However, astronauts will still need a spacesuit even with “homegrown” oxygen.
NASA is currently developing the new technologies required to take people to Mars. That might occur in the following ten years, possibly in the late 2030s. You’ll have reached adulthood by then, and you might be among the first people to set foot on Mars.
Humans have been exploring Mars since the 1960s in an effort to learn more about how planets form, develop, and whether they have ever supported extraterrestrial life. Only unmanned spacecraft have visited the red planet thus far, but that may soon change. In order to advance exploration, numerous new missions are launching before NASA’s goal of having the first humans set foot on Mars in the 2030s. Here is a look at the significance of these missions and what the human race has discovered about Mars through many years of investigation.
Everything we’ve learned about Mars over the past century points to the possibility that microscopic life may still exist on the planet today, having once been quite capable of supporting ecosystems.
Following Earth, Mars is the fourth asteroid from the sun. Its size is barely half that of Earth, and its gravity is only 38% that of Earth’s. While it rotates on its axis at nearly the same speed as Earth, it takes longer than Earth to complete a full orbit around the sun. Since a day on Mars is only 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth, a year there lasts for 687 Earth days.
The planet’s land area, despite its smaller size, is roughly equal to the surface area of Earth’s continents, suggesting that Mars, at least theoretically, possesses the same amount of livable space. Unfortunately, the world is now covered in a tenuous layer of carbon dioxide and is incapable of supporting life as we know it. The atmosphere of this desiccated world also contains methane gas on occasion, and the soil contains substances poisonous to life as we know it. Although there is water on Mars, it is trapped in the freezing polar caps and may be abundantly present beneath the planet’s surface.
Today, when scientists examine the Martian surface, they notice features such as branching streams, river valleys, basins, and deltas that are undeniably the result of old, flowing liquids. These data imply the possibility that the planet’s northern hemisphere originally covered a large ocean. Rainstorms in other areas saturated the landscape, creating lakes and rivers that gushed and carved troughs in the earth. Additionally, it was probably encased in a dense atmosphere that could keep liquid water stable at Martian pressures and temperatures.
A world that was once somewhat Earthlike underwent a drastic transition at some point during the history of Mars, becoming the dusty, dry husk we see today.
NASA, Roscosmos of Russia, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are the four space agencies that have so far placed spacecraft in Martian orbit. The United States is the only nation to have operated a craft on the surface of the planet, with eight successful landings. If the newly launched Hope and Tianwen-1 missions successfully land on Mars in February 2021, the United Arab Emirates and China may join that group.
The idea, widely held by scientists since the late 1800s, that Martian canals were constructed by an extraterrestrial civilisation was finally disproved over the course of the next decades as orbiters returned much more precise data on the planet’s atmosphere and surface. The little world possesses the greatest volcanoes in the solar system and one of the largest canyons yet seen, a chasm the length of the continental United States, which was also disclosed. Its plains are frequently covered in dust storms, and localised dust devils are caused by wind.
NASA’s Viking 1 and 2 were the first spacecraft to successfully operate on a planet’s surface in 1976, and they continued to send back images until 1982. They also performed biological tests on Martian soil in an effort to find evidence of extraterrestrial life, but the results were inconclusive, and scientists are currently debating how to interpret the data.
The first autonomous rover, Sojourner, was introduced to the planet by NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission, which was launched in 1996. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity are some of its successors; they explored the planet for a lot longer than anticipated and sent back more than 100,000 photographs until dust storms destroyed their solar panels in the 2010s.
Currently, two NASA spacecraft are operating on the surface of Mars: InSight is exploring the planet’s interior and has already found evidence of frequent “marsquakes” beneath the surface. The 2012-launched Curiosity rover is still exploring Gale Crater, snapping bizarre selfies, and learning about the rocks and sediments deposited in the crater’s old lakebed.
NASA’s MAVEN orbiter, the ESA’s Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, are among the spacecraft that are currently transmitting data from orbit.
Together, these missions have demonstrated to scientists that Mars is a dynamic world that is teeming with water, organic carbon, and an energy source—the elements necessary for life as we know it.
Spacecraft can travel between Earth and Mars in around half a year once every 26 months when Earth and Mars are aligned to reduce costs and trip durations. The most recent of these conjunctions, was in the summer of 2020, was when Earth’s space agencies typically launched missions. Three nations sent spacecraft to Mars during this window: China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates launched its Hope spacecraft on July 20 and it will orbit Mars to study its atmosphere and weather patterns. The United States launched its Perseverance rover on July 30.
Perseverance’s aim was to investigate the Martian temperature and weather, test innovations that might make it possible for people to live on Mars, and gather samples from a variety of rocks that will ultimately be returned to Earth. Making it a true life-finding Mars mission, one of its objectives was to assist in determining whether Mars was or is populated.
With the development of the Orion spacecraft, which will be able to carry people to the moon and beyond, NASA is unquestionably eyeing the 2030s as a viable timetable for landing the first humans on Mars.
Private spaceflight firms like SpaceX are also entering the race to Mars. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has frequently stated that if mankind is to survive, it must become “a multiplanetary species.” He is currently working on a plan that might result in a million people living on Mars by the end of this century.
Humanity may soon discover, in some way, whether our neighbouring planet has ever supported life and whether there is a chance for our species to survive on other planets.
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