NASA takes first step towards landing humans on Mars
Sen—NASA will host a conference later this year to begin the search for sites on Mars that could one day support a manned mission.
The first Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars will be held Oct. 27-30 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. The conference will look for potential Exploration Zones on Mars that current missions such as NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft and future missions might study to create high resolution maps and provide scientific data.
Proposed regions would need to provide a safe landing with high scientific research value, as well as having natural resources that could be exploited to allow human explorers to live and work on Mars. It is thought that the first Mars explorers would be restricted to within a 100 km (60 miles) radius of their landing site due to the limitations of life support and exploration technology.
NASA continues to build the knowledge and technologies needed to send humans to Mars. Experiments aboard the International Space Station are being used to test systems and study the health impacts of extended space travel, and the next generation of launch and crew vehicles, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crewed spacecraft, are currently being developed and tested.
With the development of space tourism, and several private companies looking at establishing manned Mars bases, together with the success of the science fiction novel (and the upcoming movie) The Martian by Andy Weir with its realistic depiction of what it takes to survive on Mars, the prospect of human exploration of the Red Planet, is beginning to feel achievable at last.
Exploration Zone layout considerations. Image credit: NASA