Thursday, December 10, 2009

Designs on Mars

As the 40th-anniversary celebration of the moon landing ends, a human voyage to Mars is a future goal for NASA. Having a human set foot on another planet would be one of the greatest moments in human history and one of the greatest adventures imaginable.

A mission to the red planet with a human crew is a challenge that is at the edge of, and possibly beyond, current technological capabilities. A voyage to Mars would take a crew about 180 days one way. To reach the Martian surface, NASA envisions an aerodynamic lander that flies down with thrusters to help it descend. The ascent vehicle that takes the crew back into space for the six-month trip home will likely rely on a combination of methane and liquid oxygen.

Before the crew even gets to Mars, the plan is to send as much cargo there ahead of time as possible. The habitat the crew lives in on the Martian surface would be sent ahead of time. This is where designers have their biggest challenge.

Human exploration of Mars will probably be an international endeavor, most likely not limited to just one country, but probably of global scale. Russia and China are developing plans as well.

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