A Journey to Mars: A (Tentative) Timeline

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-30 08:20

An artist's concept of astronauts setting up equipment on the surface of Mars
[Photo by NASA]

NASA has revealed some details on how they plan to send astronauts on a journey to Mars.

Sending humans to Mars has been a decades-long pursuit for the world's space agencies. Wernher von Braun, a Nazi scientist who secretly began working for the United States after World War II, was the first person to create a detailed proposal of a Mars mission. Proposals from China, the then-Soviet Union, and Russia as we know it now followed in the next decades.

NASA, at present, is under pressure by the US government to successfully launch manned missions beyond Earth's orbit before 2020. Given NASA's current timeline, though, this may not happen before 2023.

2018 to 2025

NASA's chief of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, recently revealed the details of plans to send astronauts on a journey to Mars. These plans don't include actually landing on the planet as of yet. However, it does plan on sending astronauts to orbit Mars by 2033.

The agency is planning a test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft in 2018. The Orion spacecraft is a capsule that will take humans to and from the moon. By 2022, NASA will send the Europa Clipper on a journey to Jupiter's moon, Europa. After these launches, NASA plans on building an outpost, smaller than the International Space Station, near the moon.

The construction of this outpost will take three launches that will happen from 2023 to 2025.

2027 to 2029

Establishing this outpost is integral to sending astronauts on a journey to Mars. After the construction of the outpost, NASA projects that it will begin working on ways to travel beyond the moon. They plan on launching a 41-ton transport vehicle that can carry astronauts by 2027.

By 2029, NASA plans on sending a 4-person crew to the transport vehicle. The crew will spend 300 to 400 days on the vehicle to test its readiness for a journey to Mars.

Early 2030s

If all systems are in good shape, NASA will send fuel and more logistics to the transport vehicle in the early 2030s. According to the agency's projections, it can send the transport vehicle to Mars's orbit by 2033. The flight can last up to about three years.

The mission will include a flyby around Venus, and it won't spend much time in Mars's orbit. Hopefully, the mission will go well. Once the transport vehicle and its crew leave the moon's vicinity, it will not have the means to come back in case of an emergency.

Is a Successful Journey to Mars Possible?

Hope is somewhat of an integral part in missions to space. Things can go wrong, but many missions have been successful so far. However, this journey to Mars is certainly ambitious. The agency may run into problems with funding; the US Congress may not be too keen on huge non-military expenditures. The plans are there, but whether or not they come to fruition remains to be seen.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!