Journey to Mars: Beginning of Intergalactic Travel?
The most recent discussion of a 660 million mile Mars mission has centered around Elon Musk and SpaceX’s plans to fly an unmanned mission to the red planet as early as 2018. But NASA is in the thick of helping SpaceX’s Red Dragon reach Mars. The hope is that NASA’s mission to put boots on Mars itself sometime in the 2030s will be helped significantly by what SpaceX learns from its Mars Mission.
The U.S. Congress recently authorized spending for the “Journey to Mars” project although continuing budget problems could delay the project. In the meantime, NASA continues its rover missions with a new Mars rover mission scheduled to land on the planet in 2020.
The NASA “Journey to Mars” is expected to include the construction and deployment of a space station, like the ISS, in Mars orbit. The Mars Space Station will serve as a base camp for subsequent missions. Additionally, a number of companies are working on full-size deep space habitats with the bells and whistles needed to take care of astronauts on missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
NASA reportedly will not go it alone on missions to Mars. Just as it has done with the International Space Station (ISS), scores of countries will play a role including the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, India, and others.
NASA had planned to launch the InSight Lander for Mars in 2016 but suspended the program due to its inability to repair a leak in the science payload. According to NASA:
“Learning about the interior structure of Mars has been a high priority objective for planetary scientists since the Viking era,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window. A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: NASA remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars.”
The following video explains NASA’s plans for its Journey to Mars.