As it moves forward with plans to send astronauts to the Moon, NASA is also already thinking about human exploration of Mars. A first mission involving the sending of four people on site for thirty days would already be in the papers.
After the Moon, the planet Mars. This is the stated objective of NASA which, according to current plans, would aim for a first manned mission towards the end of the 2030s. To do this, many technical, technological or health-related challenges for astronauts will have to be met. .
To begin with, if all these challenges have been met since then, the American agency would like to send a first mission involving four people, two of whom could go to the surface.
A thirty-day mission in a pressurized rover
The mission plan is still in its infancy and could change significantly over the next few years. However, for now, NASA is considering using a habitat-like spacecraft to ferry crew members to the Red Planet. The idea would be to rely on a hybrid rocket stage (propelled by both chemical and electric propulsion). The round trip would take about five hundred days. The astronauts would remain on site for thirty days.
Gravity or lack thereof will be an issue here. These astronauts will arrive after several months in microgravity and will therefore have to take the time to recover. In addition, Martian gravity is about three times less than Earth’s. One way to solve this problem would be to have the astronauts live in a pressurized rover during their mission. They could then perform several spacewalks to explore the surface.
About twenty-five tons of supplies and equipment would be sent upstream by an advance robotic mission. These supplies would include an ascent vehicle already fueled, enough to allow astronauts to leave Mars to place themselves in orbit around the planet. From there, they would join the other two astronauts and then return to Earth.
Finally, the architecture of the mission is quite similar to that of the Apollo lunar missions.
The public invited to leave comments
The agency published the main objectives of this hypothetical thirty-day manned mission this Tuesday, May 17 and asked the public to give their opinion on the evolution of the planning. Interested parties have until June 3. A workshop will also be scheduled in June with partners from US industry and academia. Several international organizations could also intervene during a workshop in July.
As you will have understood, this mission is only in its infancy. In the meantime, NASA is focused on launching its Artemis 1 mission to prepare for manned missions to the Moon within the decade. This work on our satellite will also be essential to prepare for Mars.