I think it’s safe to assume that at one point or another we’ve all looked up to the sky and dreamt of what’s out there. Science Fiction films have always captured our attention and let our imaginations run wild with the possibilities of what could await us beyond the reaches of our blue marble. Even space moves based even partially in reality – Gravity, Interstellar, and others – have made millions in the box office, proving our love of all things Space. Today, NASA made the announcement that many have been waiting to hear: a manned Mars mission has been announced. NASA is going to send a human crew to the red planet.
The first in a great many series of events leading to this manned mission is the launch on Thursday, December 4th of the new Orion spacecraft. Orion is a spacecraft in the spirit of the Apollo program of the 60’s and 70’s in that it will carry astronauts into deep space, but Orion will go much farther than Apollo could even imagine. Orion is the foundation that will take astronauts to Mars. Thursday’s launch will obviously be a test of this system, and provide valuable test data for all processes including launch aboard the new Space Launch System (SLS), safety and evacuation systems, as well as heat shield and re-entry testing.
Provided that all testing goes as planned, the first human mission in an Orion spacecraft is set for 2021. This won’t be the big show, this mission will focus on delivering astronauts to a asteroid. That mission will bring a new sort of challenge as the asteroid will be brought into stable orbit around the moon first. The first planned mission to Mars won’t take place until the 2030’s.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover, and more recently the Philae Comet probe have really only whet our appetites for space. Landing a car on Mars and a dishwasher on a comet are most impressive, but today’s announcement is really what we have all been waiting for. Why else would a reported 200,000 people volunteer for a one way trip to Mars back in 2012? Over the next years, NASA will be testing the equipment and processes necessary to ensure that they’re able to send astronauts to Mars, and then bring them home safely.
So…we’re going to set foot on Mars in many of our lifetimes…How many of you are as excited about that as I am? Let us know in the comments, or on your favorite social network.Source: NASA.gov