Humanity has been fascinated by Mars and other planets since long before the first astronaut landed on the moon. It has been reported that we are finally ready to start sending some people to Mars.
The Four Phases
The plan includes five phases of the journey. Phase 0 involved conducting a lot of tests at the ISS (International Space Station) and developing partnerships with private space agencies. Phase I is the current phase, which involves a lot of testing of SLS rockets, which will be service stations for the route to Mars. They are designed to be located near the moon.
Phase II will launch the Deep Space Transport tube toward the lunar stations sometime between 2027 and 2029. Astronauts are expected to live in the tube for at least 400 days. Then Phase III will be restocking the Transport and the crew through the SLS. Phase IV will be the journey itself.
If all goes according to the plan, it means we’re only about 14 years away from completing the mission that has only been dreamed about for the past several decades. However, there have been some financial challenges to meeting the goals. As of 2017, NASA’s budget was barely .05 percent of the U.S. budget. In comparison, it was over four percent for the Apollo missions.
There is also the issue of maintaining the astronauts health and well-being. Since the mission is expected to take two or three earth years, the astronauts will need to take enough food, air, and supplies to keep them selves sustained for that long. Mental health will also need to be taken into consideration as they will be sealed in the tube with no outlet for an emergency return once it leaves the Cislunar port.
One experiment that has shown some promising results is the HI-SEAS isolation experiments. This is an experiment which involves sealing off small crews near the peak of the Maura Loa volcano. However, we can’t really predict what’s going to happen to humanity on Mars while we’re still on Earth. The best prediction that we can safely make is that going to Mars probably won’t be for everyone. Not everyone will probably want to go, either.
As before, NASA also has some competition. Only this time, it’s with Space X and Boeing. Both have said that they expect to launch by or on 2020, with the goal of arriving by 2022. However, NASA expects the competition to be friendly. They are hoping that if the private companies work out the challenges that they will be able to build on that and able to spend their budgets on other challenges.
The end goal, of course, is for us to establish a permanent colony on Mars. The plan is for this to occur by 2117. However, the challenges are not expected to stop there. After all, we will have to adapt to the conditions of Mars. As a result, we will need to be equipped to handle disruptions, health issues, and emotional challenges. There is also a concern that consanguinity or being descended from the same ancestor could bring about genetic glitches.
More About the HI-SEAS
HI-SEAS stand for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. The Maura Loa was chosen because its environment is very similar to Mars. It is located over 8,000 feet above sea level. It has very little variation in weather conditions and its environment alone makes for a space-like exploration. It is still affected by lava from fairly recent explosions so it doesn’t currently have very much vegetation or animal life.
It has a habitat volume of about -13,000 feet and a floor space of approximately -1200 feet, which is useful for crews of six at a time. It contains small sleeping quarters, a kitchen, laboratory, restroom, airlock, and some space for the gritty work in the geographical fields. There is also a hospital that is an hour long drive away in case of emergencies.
The crew selection is not controlled by researchers. Instead, they are selected by HI-SEAS more or less by chance from places such as Antarctic conditions. They have also managed to establish a mission control communication system the way it is predicted to be during a trip to Mars with a 29-minute delay between the reception of messages.
The trip to Mars is predicted to be a challenging one. The plan is not a means to an end. The plan is an entire move of human life from Earth to Mars. It is not predicted to be an easy one either mentally or emotionally. However, populating Mars will be the safest thing we can do until we design something that will get us out of the Milky Way galaxy.