It’s fascinated united state for centuries, motivating astronomers, science fiction writers and an ext than a couple of star-gazing entrepreneurs who have plans come launch your own goals to Mars. But will us really ever set foot ~ above the red planet where a year lasts 687 days?


Mars beckons us. The nearest, many Earth-like world to our own, it shines through a reddish glow the reflected sunshine in the night sky, calling the end to ours curiosity and also spirit that adventure. It has an atmosphere (of sorts) and, in ~ noon on a summer’s day, ground temperatures deserve to reach 25˚C. A day lasts around 24 hours, as on Earth... Yet there the familiarity ends. That setting is 95 per cent unbreathable carbon dioxide, at much less than one per cent of the atmospheric push on Earth, therefore there’s small insulation and winter nights have the right to be -140˚C. Mars is a tenth of the mass of Earth, therefore gravity has only a third of the pull us experience.

You are watching: Are we sending people to mars


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The next frontier

After the Apollo Moon missions in the 1970s, sending astronauts come Mars seemed the next logical step, however it would certainly be a ‘giant leap’, politically and also financially. An are is big: if it took the Apollo astronauts only 4 days to reach the Moon, through present an innovation it would certainly take around nine month to reach Mars. By the time the planets align favourably for a return, a complete mission can last 2 or three years. Throughout that time, the astronauts would need food, water and also oxygen, plus protection from radiation.

At this point, the success price for robot goals does no inspire confidence. Russia has actually launched 21 Mars rockets come date, including 5 unmanned landers, however only two orbiters completed your missions. The US has been more successful, shedding only five out the 23 missions. Yet there has actually yet to it is in a return mission. Plainly some more work is needed prior to we can contemplate sending humans to Mars. But, sooner or later, we will certainly go. With the political will, it can be in ~ 20 years. And also one point that deserve to be excellent in the during is test human psychological resilience because that such a mission. The present record holder for the longest spaceflight is the Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov, who went back to planet from Mir in march 1995 after ~ 437 work in space. Together a feat test the human being body’s capacity to withstand the muscle and also bone loss connected with zero gravity, and is a psychological test the will and endurance. And while contact with astronauts top top the International space Station (ISS) is simple, together it takes only a fraction of a second to relay messages to and from Earth, radio signals take 20 minutes to with Mars, therefore astronauts there will feel much an ext isolated, adding to the mental stress of confinement with a tiny team.


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These testing problems have to be simulated on planet in bespeak to advice their effect on people. Mars 500 was a Russian/European/Chinese project between 2007 and also 2011 in one isolation facility in a Moscow vehicle park. The culminated in a 520-day remain by six male volunteers. They declared to be in good health throughout, however some avoided exercise and hid from your colleagues, and also four had difficulty sleeping.

The recent simulation – Hawaii an are Exploration Analog and Simulation, run for NASA through the university of Hawaii – took location in the Mars-like landscape of Hawaii, 2,500m up the side of the Mauna Loa volcano. A team of six arised from a year in isolation there on 28 august 2016. They had been permitted out ~ above simulated Mars walks, however only attract a full room suit; the rest of the time they were living in cramped problems in a 100sq m geodesic dome. The European space Agency likewise performs continual evaluations the the crew at the remote Concordia station in Antarctica to assess the effects of confinement during the long, dark polar winter.

Mars culture president Robert Zubrin has actually a mission arrangement that, he believes, will be safer and cheaper than any other. It involves very first launching one unmanned planet Return automobile (ERV) that would land on Mars and use solar or nuclear power and also imported hydrogen to create methane and also oxygen from Martian CO2. In other words, rocket fuel. This way that human beings would set out only once they knew there would certainly be a sustained return vehicle waiting because that them on Mars. The craft Mars society president Robert Zubrin has actually a mission arrangement that, the believes, will certainly be safer and also cheaper than any type of other. That involves very first launching an unmanned earth Return car (ERV) that would certainly land top top Mars and also use solar or atom power and also imported hydrogen to produce methane and oxygen indigenous Martian CO2. In various other words, rocket fuel. This way that human beings would collection out only as soon as they knew there would certainly be a sustained return automobile waiting for them on Mars. The craft they fly the end on, he says, would stay on Mars to carry out future accommodation. A second ERV would be launched at the exact same time to provide back-up and, if every goes well, would be all set to carry the next team home two years later. In this way, a series of return trips would build up a number of living spaces on Mars for longer stays in the future. And also because most of the fuel for the return expedition would it is in made top top Mars, Zubrin believes substantial energy and cost savings might be made.

Elon Musk

NASA’s very own plans are much more cautious. They involve moving long-duration human missions the end from the ISS come orbit the Moon end the following 13 years, while continuing the scientific exploration of Mars; complied with up through cargo delivery and also an unmanned sample-return mission in the so late 2020s. But, castle say, it won’t be prior to the early on 2030s that humans orbit Mars, permit alone floor on the planet. Meanwhile, Elon Musk, former PayPal entrepreneur and founder the SpaceX, has his very own plans. He currently has a NASA contract because that delivering provides to the ISS and also hopes to have the ability to deliver cargo to Mars in 2018, in preparation for a human mission in the 2020s. ‘Mars is miscellaneous we deserve to do in our lifetimes,’ the says.


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Xtra terrestrial

The SpaceX ide has been arisen in some detail. Its current Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are currently flying, moving cargo to the ISS, v both sections returning to planet for reuse. However the Interplanetary Transport device (ITS) is much an ext ambitious. Vice versa, Falcon 9 supplies nine Merlin rocket engines, the its will usage 42 Raptor engines – the exact same size yet with nearly three times the thrust. These multiple engines average that also if few of them failed, a mission could continue. The very first test-firing the a Raptor engine went well in September 2016.

The beginning rocket would certainly be the most powerful ever constructed – taller than the Saturn V that the Apollo missions and also massively more capable. It could launch 300 lots of cargo right into orbit and return come land vertically on the launch pad, prepared for reuse through minimal maintenance. As with the Mars society plan, economies come from fuelling the outside craft in orbit and also manufacturing fuel because that the return expedition on Mars itself. Yet Musk has his sights collection on an ext than just cargo delivery; he has actually visions that a Mars colony, and also a fleet of numerous such handmade in the following century. He says he wants to ‘create a self-sustaining civilisation, no an outpost, so human beings can end up being a multi-planetary species’. The orbits that Mars and also Earth line up for an efficient mission every 26 months, and also Musk really hopes to usage them all from currently on, beginning with unmanned tests in 2018 and also sending the first people come Mars in 2026. Funding might come from governments, exclusive enterprise and also even crowdfunding.

Then, far, far in the future, when there are first bases, climate colonies, on Mars, comes the an obstacle of terraforming – do Mars choose Earth. That could involve very first boosting atmospheric press by melting polar carbon dioxide v nuclear strength or solar reflectors, and including to it with imported comets and asteroids. That would additionally raise temperatures and allow the return of fluid water. However it would require the security of an synthetic magnetic field. Then algae or cyanobacteria might start producing oxygen to do the setting breathable.

The ingredient of science fiction, yes, yet as we’ve seen, so lot of fiction becomes fact.


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