Over half a century after Neil Armstrong took manhood’s massive climb on the moon, one more space race is warming up. This time, the likely new frontier for Earthlings is Mars, the world next door.
A series of robotic operations to the red planet, involving NASA’s Perseverance rover this year and China’s Zhurong this month. This has led to the inescapable question:
When can humans follow?
Unmanned operations across the decades have flashed a trove of data, with the presence of water ice on Mars. This fuels belief that a human arrival is potential. But how soon? And are we prepared?
NASA intends to transmit astronauts to Mars, maybe at some point in the 2030s. The United Arab Emirates currently has a spacecraft encircling the planet which is fostering a 100-year plan. The plan is in order to build a society there. While China says that sending humans to Mars is its long-term objective. China adds that those keen for a flavor of Martian life can pay a visit to a simulation spot in the Gobi Desert as of now.
The boldest of them all is billionaire Elon Musk. The founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to send humans in this decade. He mentions in an interview in 2020 that he was sure a crewed operation can take place in 2026. Many researchers, however, caution of too many one-sided questions tackling deep-space travel. Musk has also admitted the risks, saying “it is difficult sledding over there.”
“Truthfully, a lot of people possibly will die at the start,” Musk says in that interview with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation.
Here are some of the greatest challenges, from enduring cosmic radiation and dust storms to generating oxygen and water:
The Apollo astronauts can fly to the moon in just a few days. However, a trip to Mars would take somewhere between six to nine months. The distance between Mars and Earth is ranging between 35 million miles and 249 million miles. The range is due to their elliptical orbits. Hence, there is only a tiny window accessible when the two are perfectly aligned for space travel. That makes logistics much riskier.
With the lunar discovery, “there is always the possibility of rescue or provisioning or supply from Earth or from a midway space station,” says Alice Gorman. Alice is an associate professor at Flinders University in Adelaide. Also, she is a representative of the advisory council of the Space Industry Association of Australia. “That is not going to be the issue for Mars.”