Mars. One of NASA’s most ambitious goals, and the first step for human deep space travel. All of us heard the speeches as kids. ‘You could be the first person to ever set foot on Mars.’
Well, the early stages of a trip to the red planet are beginning to take shape. Last December, NASA successfully tested its Orion spacecraft. A spacecraft like Orion hasn’t been seen since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. It was designed specifically for astronauts to go into deep space. Not just to the moon either, but to Mars.
Here’s a video showing the spacecraft re-entry from the December test.
Among the speakers were The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy), Stanford professor Scott Hubbard and George Washington University professor John Logsdon.
“Getting humans to Mars is far more complex than getting to Earth’s Moon,” said Nye. “But space exploration brings out the best in us. By reaching consensus on the right set of missions, we can send humans to Mars without breaking the bank.”
70 attendees reached consensus on several key points. I’ll highlight a couple of them below.
An orbital mission to Mars in 2033 is required for a sustainable and successful Humans to Mars program. A similar approach was taken with the moon back in the late 1960s. Apollo 8 and 10 orbited the moon, before astronauts landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
“The 1968 Apollo 8 mission to Moon orbit was critical in the successful lunar landing seven months later. I hope that a Mars orbit mission can play the same kind of crucial role in getting people to the Martian surface,” said Logsdon.
This orbital mission will also give astronauts and whoever is operating the Mars mission (whether its NASA or a private company) much-needed experience in human travel between Earth and Mars.
The workshop also highlights how orbiting Mars first will “establish a framework for involving the private sector and international partners, and will create a unified Mars science and exploration community.”
Public interest in all things space has always been high. But, can that same interest reach the people who decide NASA’s budget? At least private companies are stepping up to the plate.
What do you think? Do you think we will reach Mars in the 2030s? Will it be NASA, or a private company?