Man on the moon, how about man on Mars? Dava Newman, former Deputy Administrator of NASA, recently shared plans to develop the most powerful rocket to date. The rocket is called the Space Launch System (SLS). Currently an 18-inch, plastic model, it represents some of America’s greatest ambitions: with thrust forces greater than previous models, the rocket could take four people to Mars in the 2030’s—if everything goes according to plan, that is.
The thought that humans could one day walk on a planet 54.6 million kilometers away from Earth is fascinating. NASA has planned this journey for decades now. Plans include orbiters, rovers, and landers. However, some are left wondering if it is even safe for humans to visit Mars and possibly even call it home one day.
For Exploration Mission-1, which is what the very first misson to Mars will be called officially, NASA will launch the SLS and the capsule, Orion, in 2018. Although it will not carry any people, the SLS will execute a three-week trip, during which it will fly 64,373 kilometers beyond the moon and back. During Exploration Mission-2, which might take place in the 2020’s, space scientists estimate NASA will try to send astronauts into far outer space. This mission will likely present many problems for current technology. For example, the astronauts will be exposed to solar and cosmic radiation, which, over long periods, can be harmful to both the explorers and their suits. To address this potential concern, researchers are designing spacesuits with built-in protective shields.
Also, the second mission to Mars will present nutrition problems for astronauts—and for anyone hoping to live on this planet long term. On Mars, planting and making food is going to take a lot of energy. Thus, astronauts will have to make food from their own fecal matter. Specifically, they will have to collect their liquid and solid waste into a reactor. The reactor will contain a group of bacteria that will break down the waste and produce methane gas. This gas can be fed to another type of bacteria that will then develop protein and fat for human consumption. Though it might be found disgusting, this process will be a necessity for humans to survive on Mars.
If humans can reach Mars, it will be a huge milestone. Our world has dreamed about this possibility for years. The moon landing was something few at that time thought was possible. Now imagine the possibility of reaching Mars.
[Sources: NASA; Smithsonian]