NASA Unveils Earliest Plans for Sending Astronauts to Mars

If all goes to plan, NASA hopes to send a pair of astronauts to Mars at some point within the next 20 years. Last week, the space agency unveiled its earliest plans for a crewed mission to the Martian surface, including habitable environment and rover designs. In a lengthy video shared to NASA's YouTube page, officials laid out initial plans to take two astronauts to Mars for a 30-day mission.

The intention is to launch astronauts towards the planet by 2040, but the 500-day travel time to get to the Red Planet still happens to be one of the largest hurdles to overcome even considering what technology the agency currently has access to.

"These objectives will move us toward our first analog Mars mission with crew in space and prepare us for the first human mission to the surface of the Red Planet," said Jim Free, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, in a release from NASA. "After reviewing feedback on the objectives, we will work with our partners to discuss input and finalize our framework this fall."

As such, the group is now taking public comments and ideas on how to better its plans for the mission. Public comments are being accepted on the NASA website regarding this particular Mars mission until June 3rd. You can submit ideas here.

"The feedback we receive on the objectives we have identified will inform our exploration plans at the Moon and Mars for the next 20 years," added Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. "We're looking within NASA and to external stakeholders to help us fine-tune these objectives and be as transparent as possible throughout our process. With this approach, we will find potential gaps in our architecture as well as areas where our goals align with those from industry and international partners for future collaboration."

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NASA also released a presentation outlining 50 objectives it hopes to complete for the mission. You can read that document in its entirety here.

Cover photo by NASA/Pat Rawlings