NASA is currently working on a “Journey to Mars,” a step-by-step process focused on getting human feet on the surface of the Red Planet by the 2030’s. It’s ridiculously exciting stuff, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
The International Space Station is the first step, where astronauts are even now testing the effects of space on the human body, communications capabilities, and other significant technologies. The next step is the Asteroid Redirect Mission, when the ARM robot will capture an asteroid mass and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon. By 2025 or so, astronauts will utilize the Orion Spacecraft (whose first test flight took place in December 2014) to land on the asteroid, collect samples, and return them to Earth.
While all this is taking place, there will be numerous tests going on at the same time to make sure we are ready for the leap to Mars. For example, there will be another Mars rover (Mars 2020) that will land and surface test myriad technologies that will be necessary for survival there. By 2018, Tests on the Space Launch System rocket, billed as the most powerful rocket in history, will have begun.
By sometime in the 2030’s, we may well be on Mars. That is incredible to think about, but it’s a long way off.
Still, exciting data are being collected everyday. I found a really quick and informative video on MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission):
MAVEN is studying the ionosphere and the upper atmosphere of Mars, attempting to determine big questions about why Mars’ climate is the way it is now. What’s really exciting to me is that MAVEN will be able to put together long-term data on the atmosphere, recording how it is influenced by the sun and solar wind, among other variables. This will not only increase our knowledge on Mars, but on planetary atmospheres in general. Gaining greater knowledge in that area might help us to better understand the atmospheric composition of exoplanets and to find other earth-like planets.
The interconnectivity of science is one of its great beauties. From the quest to travel to news worlds to recording atmospheric composition, science is the best tool mankind has developed for revealing the wonders of our universe. We are daring to learn new things everyday. How could anyone not be excited by that?