Journey to the Red Planet


Was Mars once home to microbial life? Is it today? Could it be a safe home for humans one day? NASA hopes to answer these questions and more on a crewed journey to Mars.
But what will it take to get there and what are the plans once there? These are the questions News 25 asked several experts from NASA.
For more than 40 years, NASA has used robots to explore and research Mars, learning that Mars has valuable resources, such as frozen water just beneath the surface. These can be used to sustain human pioneers, so now that’s the plan: to send people to Mars by the early 2030’s, but beforehand NASA plans to send astronauts on several test runs, circling the moon, before actually landing on the red planet. NASA Astronaut Rick Mastracchio said, “We’re just going to try to demonstrate that we can get to Mars. We can survive the landing and we have a way to get off of Mars and get back home.”
Human exploration on Mars will be a big step toward advancing science and technology, far outside the realm of current robotic exploration. The ultimate goal will be colonizing the red planet. “We want to learn how to use the resources on Mars. Can we get water from Mars? Can we get oxygen from Mars? So that we don’t have to carry all those things here, but those are things that every mission will just take that further and further and develop that infrastructure,” said Mastracchio.
Of course, harvesting Martian resources to create fuel, water, oxygen and building materials will require extensive training from the astronauts, not only taking care of the environment, but taking care of each other. If someone is sick or injured in space, time is critical and conversations from Mars to doctors here on Earth could take about 15 minutes to just send one message. “I was trained in emergency dental work. I was trained as an optometrist in a lot of ways. I was trained as an ultrasound technician. I was trained as a medical doctor in terms of handling different types of emergencies. That training is going to have to get more and more extensive,” said Mastracchio.
As will our knowledge as exploration extends further into our solar system. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA, said, “The biggest benefit is becoming a multi-planet species. Having another place to go. We’ll also learn as we learn to survive on the surface with carbon dioxide and so forth, we’ll learn how as the atmosphere here on Earth gets worse and it will, how we can maybe deal with it.”


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