A visit to the Red Planet is no longer in the realm of science fiction. According to NASA, the space agency will take steps towards establishing a sustainable human presence beyond Earth over the next few decades – and not just to visit, but to stay.
A recent NASA report lays out a detailed plan as to how the agency might reach Mars in the near future. It is divided into three parts:
Phase 1: This involves further research on the International Space Station, focusing on the effects of living in space for long periods of time. It also involves further development of its most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).
Phase 2: Nasa wants to perform a variety of tasks in cislunar space, which is the area around the moon. This involves the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which sends a solar-electric robotic probe to an asteroid, retrieving a large chunk of it and transporting it to the cislunar orbit. NASA is aiming to transport astronauts to study the boulder-sized object in the cislunar orbit by 2025.
Phase 3: The final phase would be to send astronauts to orbit Mars, possibly first landing on one of its moons, Phobos or Deimos. The final and most challenging task is to land human beings on the surface of Mars, along with the proper equipment to get them safely back to Earth.
How long would it take humans to reach Mars?
The minimum distance from Earth to the Red Planet is approximately 54.6 million kilometres. With today’s technology, it would take at least 150 days to get there.
Click on this interactive infographic for a clear idea of how long it would take us to get there if the Earth were 100 pixels (12,756km) wide and we were travelling at three times the speed of light.
Author: José Santiago is a senior associate, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum
Image: Members of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). REUTERS/Jim Urquhart