NASA refines its strategy to bring humans to Mars

Artistic conception of a first Martian base.

Artistic conception of a first Martian base.
Image: NASA

NASA next Artemis Moon program is serving as a springboard for an eventual manned mission to Mars. A revised list of planning objectives details a strategy for accomplishing this daunting feat.

the documentreleased Tuesday, it serves as a model for how we will eventually send humans to Mars. NASA has chosen to employ a “Moon on Mars” strategy, in which the space agency, with the assistance of commercial and international partners, will acquire the technology and skills needed to work on the Moon, and then use this knowledge to organize a manned mission to Mars, tentatively scheduled for the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Earlier this year, NASA drafted 50 high-level goals for the program, and in June asked members of its workforce, public and private companies and international partners to intervene. This was followed by a couple of meat workshops these ideas even more.

In total, NASA received more than 5,000 recommendations, allowing the space agency to refine its existing target list and add entirely new elements. The resulting 63 goals reflect a “mature strategy” for NASA and its partners as they develop a plan for “sustained human presence and exploration throughout the solar system,” according to one NASA Press release.

“Our first draft of the Moon to Mars targets was intentionally broad, and the overwhelming responses we received encouraged us to be even broader in some areas but more specific in others,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy wrote in forward document. “We went from 50 goals to 63, embracing multidisciplinary science, transportation and housing, lunar and Martian infrastructure, operations and a new domain: recurring principles.”

Cleverly, the revised strategy remains closely aligned with NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to get humans back to the moon. this time forever. The 63 high-level objectives listed in the new document are therefore a mix of specific lunar and Martian requirements. The new objectives have been divided into five categories: recurring principles, science, infrastructure, transport and housing and operations.

The recurring principles reflect themes common to all objectives, such as international and industrial collaboration, ensuring the health of the crew and returning it safely on Earth, maximizing the time available for crews to carry out scientific and engineering activities during the mission and to “promote the expansion of the economic sphere beyond Earth’s orbit to support US industry and innovation.” I don’t like the specific mention of “US industry and innovation”, as this international effort should also seek to promote the economies of partner nations, which is very likely to happen. But like so many things NASA says and does, there are political factors that need to be taken into consideration; the space agency must always be welcoming until Congress, the keeper of the purse strings.

The scientific goals for the Moon on Mars should cover planetary science, the science of the Sun, the human and biological sciences, and basic physics, among other fields. Ideally, we should work to improve ours understanding of the early solar system, the geology of the Moon and Mars, the origin of life, space time, the history of the Sun, and the deleterious effects of long-duration missions on biological systems, including humans, according to the paper. During the program, we should “evaluate how the interaction between exploration systems and the deep space environment affects human health, performance and human space factors to inform future exploration class missions,” as the Luna project explains. on Mars.

Specific infrastructure objectives for both the lunar and Martian environments include power generation, various robotics capabilities, a communication, navigation and timing infrastructure (i.e. ensuring synchronization between devices, some of which will be separated from great distances)and the use of local resources. For transportation and housing, the project aims to develop “an integrated system of systems to conduct a campaign of human exploration missions on the Moon and Mars, while living and working on the lunar and Martian surfaces, with a return safe on Earth “.

Operational requirements to enable human missions to both the Moon and Mars include the establishment of command and control processes, surface mobility operating systems (such as spacesuits, tools and vehicles)and the calculation of communication delays. Fascinatingly, the document also requires the “ability to find, repair, upgrade or use tools and equipment from robotic landers or previous human missions to the surface of the Moon and Mars.” This drives me crazy and all of a sudden I’m imagining that Martian crews are stalking NASA’s InSight lander for parts or repair of the Opportunity rover deceased.

“We are helping to lead humanity’s global movement in deep space,” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator leading the exploration systems development mission, said in the news release. “The goals will help ensure that a long-term strategy for solar system exploration can maintain consistency in goals and withstand political and funding changes.”

These goals are as necessary as they are daunting, as project planners try to achieve mission goals while ensuring the safety of their crews. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who breathlessly states that he will plant a millions of colonists on Mars by 2050 should take note. There is more to getting to Mars than simply filling spaceships with colonists and wishing them good luck.

Moreover: Elon Musk’s plan to send one million colonists to Mars by 2050 is pure illusion.


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