Space exploration is the long awaited dream that science has been working hard for over 70 years to make a reality. NASA stated that it’s about time we had boots on the moon and on Mars in the next 20 years give or take. The plans include a new Moon landing, continuing human deployment, help strengthen space companies and continuous research on Mars surface survival.
Space hazards are endless and one of the obvious unknown variables in these plans is how scientists would establish a safe journey and environment for astronauts. The scientists at NASA took that into account when sharing in details the expected timelines from low Earth orbit to cislunar space and then on Mars.
According to the official post by NASA, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-unveils-sustainable-campaign-to-return-to-moon-on-to-mars, the exploration has five strategic goals:
1. Transition U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to commercial operations that support NASA and the needs of an emerging private sector market.
2. Lead the emplacement of capabilities that support lunar surface operations and facilitate missions beyond cislunar space.
3. Foster scientific discovery and characterization of lunar resources through a series of robotic missions.
4. Return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a sustained campaign of exploration and use.
5. Demonstrate the capabilities required for human missions to Mars and other destinations.
Transition Low-Earth Orbit Activities
Firstly, NASA will plan the transition of low-Earth orbit activities via government funding to commercial services and partnerships. This will lead to the emergence of new and independent platforms of the International space by 2025. Expansion with public-private partnerships will ensure the development and demonstration of commercial space products and services. The international space station is still active and will serve as a core long-duration spaceflight platform through at least 2024. The crew members are leveraged by NASA to be kept healthy and productive in deep space mission as a simulation and test bed to develop technologies that can support those missions. Advanced robotics, medicine, agriculture and environmental science are all areas which can be tested and improved. 12 US commercial industries will be awarded contracts for different studies like business plans and viability of habitable platforms using the space station or independent free-flying structures.
Journey to the moon
Since the 60s, the moon has been a fundamental part of Earth’s past and future. It is considered a relay spot that may hold resources to support space activity and also serve a subject to research that may tell us more about our planet and space. Although, we have walked on the surface of the moon, the visit was understandably limited to six sites and 16 days on the surface. The next big NASA plan is to enable Americans to orbit the moon from 2023 and land astronauts on the surface in the following years of the decade. The gateway, a lunar orbiting platform for hosting astronauts farther from Earth than before, is the key establish permanent presence and infrastructure on the moon. Studies including how microorganisms react to deep space microgravity and radiation will also be made along with development of refueling depots, servicing facility and return facility.
Furthermore, the moon surface will serve as training ground and technology demonstration test site where we will prepare for future human missions to Mars and other destinations. By the late 2020s, a lunar lander capable of crew and cargo transport will commence trips to the surface of the Moon.
Journey to Mars
Humanity has witnessed some breath taking technological innovations and the first human landing on Mars will be the next big achievement in space travel and technology as a whole. The basics are set in place which includes long duration human space light, advanced life support systems and extensive research with adaptation of astronauts with deep space conditions. Overall, it is a step by step process as the lunar missions need to be perfected so they can be extended for Mars. Robotic exploration is still in play on Mars and InSight is currently on its way to study the interior of Mars. The 2020 rover will search for past life and demonstrate the production of fuel and relevant resources that will enable humans to explore the red planet. It is a long and incredible journey but when has that ever held humanity back.