sciencealert.com has a little more on NASA’s plans to visit Mars around the early 2030s or so.
As NASA’s Greg Williams explained this week at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington DC, the Moon mission is on the slate for 2027 and could see a crew spending a year sailing above the lunar surface.
That extended stay in space would be preceded by at least five missions, some manned and some unmanned, to lug bits of equipment towards the Moon. That kit would include a habitat for crew members as well as the Deep Space Transport spacecraft that NASA has in the works to take people all the way to Mars.
“If we could conduct a year-long crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said, as reported by Calla Cofield at Space.com.
NASA is working on a couple interesting things, The “space launch system” is described as “the world’s most powerful rocket“, with the aim of lifting components that can eventually be assembled into vehicles for deep space exploration. That’s right, we’re talking about a spaceship, about a decade out or so.
For those destinations farther into the solar system, including Mars, NASA envisions a deep space transport spacecraft. This spacecraft would be a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars. The transport would take crew out to their destination, return them back to the gateway, where it can be serviced and sent out again. The transport would take full advantage of the large volumes and mass that can be launched by the SLS rocket, as well as advanced exploration technologies being developed now and demonstrated on the ground and aboard the International Space Station.
This second phase will culminate at the end of the 2020s with a one year crewed mission aboard the transport in the lunar vicinity to validate the readiness of the system to travel beyond the Earth-moon system to Mars and other destinations, and build confidence that long-duration, distant human missions can be safely conducted with independence from Earth. Through the efforts to build this deep space infrastructure, this phase will enable explorers to identify and pioneer innovative solutions to technical and human challenges discovered or engineered in deep space.
Establishing private outposts in LEO [Low Earth Orbit] is just the first step in Aldrin’s plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on “cyclers” — spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth…
Step two involves the international spaceflight community coming together to build cyclers that ply cislunar space, taking people on trips to the moon and back. Such spacecraft, and the activities they enable, would allow the construction of a crewed lunar base, where humanity could learn and test the techniques required for Mars colonization, such as how to manufacture propellant from local resources, Aldrin said…
Aldrin foresees these various cycler iterations enabling a crewed mission to a near-Earth asteroid by 2020 and a Venus flyby by 2024. If all goes well, the first future Mars settlers could launch in the early 2030s, he said.
So a sustainable Mars colony could be not an ambitious goal for the next 100 years, as Stephen Hawking just suggested, but 20 years or so out.
In “Expedition New Earth” – a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” science season – Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out – not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so…
“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious…”
The BBC program gives Hawking a chance to wade into the evolving science and technology that may become crucial if humans hatch a plan to escape Earth and find a way to survive on another planet – from questions about biology and astronomy to rocket technology and human hibernation, the BBC notes.
Getting a colony started on Mars, Earth’s moon, or another moon in the nearby solar system within a hundred years doesn’t seem all that daunting to me. Whether it could be truly self-sufficient from Earth in that time frame is the real question. That seems like a tall order, considering how much our current civilization depends on this planet’s natural gifts to get by. Our technology would have to improve a lot.
Here’s an idea for a skyscraper hanging from an asteroid. It’s a twist on the old space elevator idea because it doesn’t actually touch the ground. First, you have to go out, catch the asteroid, and put it in the right position in orbit. Then, you build the thing. Then, once you’re in the thing it takes you on a wild ride all over the world every 24 hours.
The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel. Of particular concern is the potential for cosmic radiation exposure to compromise critical decision making during normal operations or under emergency conditions in deep space. Rodents exposed to cosmic radiation exhibit persistent hippocampal and cortical based performance decrements using six independent behavioral tasks administered between separate cohorts 12 and 24 weeks after irradiation. Radiation-induced impairments in spatial, episodic and recognition memory were temporally coincident with deficits in executive function and reduced rates of fear extinction and elevated anxiety. Irradiation caused significant reductions in dendritic complexity, spine density and altered spine morphology along medial prefrontal cortical neurons known to mediate neurotransmission interrogated by our behavioral tasks. Cosmic radiation also disrupted synaptic integrity and increased neuroinflammation that persisted more than 6 months after exposure. Behavioral deficits for individual animals correlated significantly with reduced spine density and increased synaptic puncta, providing quantitative measures of risk for developing cognitive impairment. Our data provide additional evidence that deep space travel poses a real and unique threat to the integrity of neural circuits in the brain.
In a talk on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk laid out engineering details to establish a permanent, self-sustaining civilization of a million people on Mars, with an initial flight as soon as 2024.
SpaceX is designing a massive reusable Interplanetary Transport System spacecraft with cabins. The trip would initially cost $500,000 per person, with a long-term goal of 100 passengers per trip.
Musk plans to make humanity a “multiplanetary species” to ensure survival in case of a calamity like an asteroid strike. “This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure,” he said.
I continue to think that places like Dubai and Singapore with extremely inhospitable climates are preparing humanity for its future in space. They are creating cities that consist of climate-controlled high rise apartments, office buildings, malls, and indoor parks, all connected by subway lines, so there is really no reason to go outside. It’s not too hard to imagine transferring one of these cities to Mars.
This is a new book about the potential for space colonization.
Its concluding section presents a scattered but sweeping vision for our future in space, and offers more plausible ideas than can be found in whole shelves of futuristic science fiction. Want to construct a lunar base, or mine asteroids for precious resources? Are you looking for alien life in our solar system, or habitable planets around other stars? Impey covers all this and much, much more in a brilliantly brisk series of chapters intended to show how we might someday become not only an interplanetary species but also an interstellar one.
Such a leap would be far more epochal than that of the Apollo moon landings, Impey notes. If Earth were the size of a Ping-Pong ball, the marble-size moon would be only a yard away — and the nearest neighboring star system would be 30,000 miles distant. Though that distance may now seem insurmountable, Impey implores us to consider the possibility of crossing it, even if only to grasp how far we have come since our ancestors spread out of Africa, and how far we still must go in securing a legacy for our distant descendants.
Someday, the sun and Earth will perish, but humanity may have the choice to be “more than a footnote in the history of the Milky Way.” Contemplating this future “and the possibility that we might not exist at all, is as haunting as deep space,” Impey writes.
The book review makes some references to H.G. Wells’ 1902 essay series Anticipations, which I might get around to reading some day.