NASA is refining its strategy to get humans to Mars

NASA is refining its strategy to get humans to Mars

Artist's impression of an ancient Martian base.

Artist’s impression of an ancient Martian base.
Image: Nasa

from NASA next Artemis Moon program serves as a springboard for a possible crewed mission to Mars. A revised list of planning goals details a strategy for accomplishing this daunting feat.

The documentpublished tuesday, serve as a blueprint for how we will eventually get humans to Mars. NASA has chosen to employ a “Moon to Mars” strategy, in which the space agency, with the help of commercial and international partners, will acquire the technology and skills needed to work on the Moon, then use those learnings to mount a crewed mission. to Mars, tentatively predicted for the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Earlier this year, NASA wrote 50 high level objectives for the program, and in june asked members of its workforce, public and private companies and international partners to ring. This was followed by a pair of flesh workshops take these ideas even further.

In total, NASA received more than 5,000 recommendations, allowing the space agency to refine its pre-existing list of goals and add new items. The resulting 63 goals reflect a ‘matured strategy’ for NASA and its partners as they develop a plan for “Sustained Human Presence and Exploration Throughout the Solar System,” NASA Report Says Press release.

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

Smartly, the revised strategy remains closely aligned with NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to get humans back to the Moon, this time for good. The 63 high-level goals listed in the new document are therefore a mix of Moon- and Mars-specific requirements. The new goals have been divided into five categories: Recurring Principles, Science, Infrastructure, Transportation and Housing, and Operations.

Recurring principles reflect themes common to all goals, such as international and industrial collaboration, ensuring crew health and safe return to Earth, maximizing the time available for crews to perform science and engineering activities during the mission, and to “foster the expansion of the economic sphere beyond Earth’s orbit to support industry and American innovation”. I don’t like the specific mention of “American industry and innovation”, because this international company should also seek to favor the economies of partner countries, which it is very likely to do. But like so much NASA says and does, there are political factors that must be considered; the space agency should always be cozy until Congress the keeper of the purse strings.

Moon to Mars science goals are expected to relate to planetary science, Sun science, human and biological sciences, and fundamental physics, among other areas. Ideally, we should work to improve our understanding of the early solar system, the geology of the Moon and Mars, the origin of life, space weather, the history of the Sun, and the deleterious effects of long-duration missions on biological systems, including including humans, according to the document. During the program, we should “evaluate how the interaction of exploration systems and the deep space environment affect human health, performance, and space human factors to inform future exploration missions”, as the Moon to Mars plan explains.

Specific infrastructure goals for the Lunar and Martian environments include power generation, various robotic capabilities, communications infrastructure, navigation, and synchronization (i.e. ensuring synchronization between devices, some of which will be separated by great distances)and use of on-site resources. For transportation and habitation, the plan aims to develop an “integrated system of systems to conduct a campaign of human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars, while living and working on the lunar and Martian surface, with safe return to Earth”.

Operational Requirements to Enable Human Missions to the Moon and Mars include establishing command and control processes, operating surface mobility systems (such as space suits, tools and vehicles), and the consideration of communication delays. Fascinatingly, the document also calls for the “ability to find, maintain, upgrade, or utilize instruments and equipment from robotic landers or previous human missions to the surface of the Moon and Mars.” It takes my breath away, and I suddenly imagine Martian crews poaching NASA’s InSight lander for parts or repair of former Opportunity rover.

“We are helping to manage humanity’s global movement into deep space,” Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said in the press release. “The goals will help ensure that a long-term strategy for solar system exploration can maintain constancy of purpose and weather political and funding changes.”

These objectives are as necessary as they are daunting, as project planners seek to fulfill mission objectives while having to ensure the safety of their crews. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk breathlessly claims he’s going to crash a million colonists on Mars by 2050, should take note. To reach Mars, it’s not enough to pack spaceships with colonists and wish them luck.

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

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