When will we see astronauts land on mars?
To reach Mars, NASA must develop many technologies that don’t currently exist, including life support systems, radiation shielding, and power and propulsion. But two technologies that will have the biggest impact on how quickly astronauts can reach Mars are in-space fuel synthesis and orbital refueling.
For missions that travel far from Earth, such as those to the Moon and Mars, it would be useful if spacecraft could use their stored rocket fuel for most of the trip instead of having to return to Earth to reload. NASA and DARPA have teamed up on a program called the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, to develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine in space that could reduce transit times.
Other technology will be important too. For example, astronauts may need new spacesuits that are lighter, more comfortable, and more adapted to the environment on Mars. These suits will need to protect against the Red Planet’s harsh radiation and cold atmosphere, and will probably feature augmented reality and self-healing materials, among other things. The spacesuits will also need to be able to communicate with mission control back on Earth, and Lockheed Martin Space is working on an onboard system called MAIA that will do just that.
There’s no doubt that getting to Mars will be a massive engineering challenge, and there’s a lot at stake for everyone involved. But it seems like NASA is doing its best to turn the dream of putting humans on the planet into a reality as fast as possible.