By the 2030s, NASA wants to send humans to Mars. It has been a long journey and process for NASA to be able to fully commit to sending us to Mars, but it is going to be incredible when we are able to explore the red planet through our own people, instead of rovers.
Mars or "the Red Planet" is the fourth planet from the Sun, right next to Earth. It has gravity that is 2.66 times less than Earth's and has an average temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists have also discovered water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen in Mars's atmosphere, which can all also be found in Earth's atmosphere. With this research, scientists are trying to discover any signs of life on the planet, and by sending the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity), they can locate liquid water, which is the basis for life. But many questions other than life still do remain, and to get those answers, NASA will be sending the Insight Mission to explore the interior of Mars and get answers to their questions about Mars's development.
Other Life on Mars
From the Mars Exploration Rovers, NASA has been able to locate liquid water, and from that, they conclude that there might have been or still is microscopic life on Mars. Using these rovers, NASA was able to collect samples of dirt, rock, and ice to examine whether any microbes lived or once lived in the samples, however, they haven't found any solid evidence yet.
One of NASA's rovers, Curiosity, discovered something interesting in the sample rocks, which could suggest a previous life. This discovery was about organic molecules which were found in the three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface. Scientists are debating whether these molecules can be actual life, a form of food, or, possibly, a non-biological process that does not give any evidence. This rock was found inside Mars's Gale Crater, which once contained liquid water and had energy sources to make it once possibly habitable, that can give more positive evidence, but is not concrete.
NASA's future plans are to analyze the planet and see how we could possibly send humans there. The US, along with many other countries, are currently collecting as much data about the planet to make sure any mission can be safe and successful. The Exploration Campaign, one of NASA's most recent projects, has brought them to start planning for the future, and missions to Mars. This campaign is designed to have many more rovers consistently be analyzing Mars for scientists to know exactly what to expect when sending a manned mission. The United States's goal is to have the first mission started in mid-2030, and with the help of other countries, hopefully, land and bring back new discoveries.
Another project being worked on in the Netherlands is Mars One, which is focusing on making Mars a habitable place for humans in the future. This project is currently still in Phase A of their process of developing advanced technology that could support us in the future, and allow us survival. Creating transportation, spacesuits, communication systems, and energy supplies are only the beginning of the new developments that they are working on. Installing an entirely new human settlement requires a lot of time and money, but Mars One predicts that it is possible for them to get some new equipment up to Mars with scientists for testing by 2040.
With these future plans in mind, our humanity will be expanding into our solar system, and possibly even further into deeper space.
Written by: Ellie Humphreys
Ellie Humphreys is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.