Here’s an idea. Someday in the future, NASA sends four people on a mission to Mars. Two of them land on the surface and live in a pressurized rover while conducting science operations for 30 days. The other two astronauts remain in orbit. They all come home safely. It’s just a broad concept as this point, but NASA is looking for feedback on its plans for getting humans to the red planet.
Earlier this month, NASA called for input on its moon to Mars objectives, which consist of a list of 50 points connected to transportation, habitation, infrastructure, operations and science. The high-level objectives address a wide range of ideas, from developing power systems for use on the Martian surface to better understanding space weather and its impact on deep space exploration. The public has until June 3 to offer input via a NASA form.
NASA will use the feedback to help shape its plans over the next couple of decades. “These objectives will move us toward our first analog Mars mission with crew in space and prepare us for the first human mission to the surface of the Red Planet,” said NASA’s Jim Free in a statement. “After reviewing feedback on the objectives, we will work with our partners to discuss input and finalize our framework this fall.”
In a video accompanying the input request, Free — associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate — shared a look at what a future crewed Mars mission might look like. The concept covers a 30-day surface mission that would involve sending a cargo lander and ascent vehicle (for getting the crew back off the planet) ahead of the astronauts’ arrival.
All eyes are on Mars as the next great frontier in human exploration of the solar system. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has hopes of getting, which is radically ambitious. Expect NASA’s vision to take much longer to play out. The space agency is focused on building a human presence at the moon through the Artemis program first.
It’s fun to think ahead to boots on Mars, but, as NASA knows, it will take a lot of work to figure out how to pull it off. If you have thoughts on that, NASA would like to hear about it.