Ever since humans landed on the moon in 1969, we’ve set our sights on the next great frontier: Mars.
Landing humans on Mars would mark the first time we have landed on another planet, and who knows, maybe it will give us a backup place to live when Earth stops turning.
Image Source: Wikimedia
We’ve been talking about taking a journey to the red planet for some time now, but when is it ever going to happen and who is going to get there first?
There have been talks of Mars missions ever since the mid 20th century. The first was the Wernher von Braun proposal which called for a massive space station to be built orbiting earth. This station would then function as the launch platform for 10 spacecraft carrying 7 people each who would make a journey to Mars.
Proposals and ideas for how a potential Mars mission might work flooded into the public sphere for the next several decades. In the 1990s, an idea called “Mars Direct” proposed that a crew would be launched to the planet with only enough fuel for a one way trip in order to cut down on cost and save weight. The crew would then use new technology to develop fuel for the return flight using chemicals in the Martian atmosphere. To many even today, this is a favored plan to reach Earth’s red twin.
The turn of the 21st century brought significant work from NASA in developing a practical Mars mission plan. The early 2000s marked 3 early NASA design reference missions, essentially comprising of extensive concept designs for future travel. By the mid-2010s, the world’s top minds began contributing to the effort to get humans to Mars. The beginnings of a space race were arising.
The European Space Agency (ESA), the China National Space Administration (CNSA), all developed plans that are still in the works that estimate a potential landing on Mars in 2033.
NASA too developed plans to land humans on the red planet along the same timeline.
Unlike the previous half century of Mars mission concepts, these plans are different – because they’re actually being developed into functional space programs.
Image Source: NASA
Most notably, NASA’s current Mars mission estimates take the lead of any other government-funded program in the world. They estimate a manned mission into the deep space around Mars sometime in the 2020s and a manned landing on the red planet in the very early 2030s, keeping with early estimates.
Image Source: NASA
Aside from larger government organizations, SpaceX also made the public announcement in 2016 that they are working to colonize Mars in the near future as well.
There’s been a lot of talk around the world as you can likely tell, but here is the most believable and accurate timeline presented for when humans will land on Mars:
2018: NASA plans to launch the Orion spacecraft aboard an SLS rocket that will investigate their current launch capabilities. Further testing will continue for another 5 years.
2023: If all previous Orion missions are up to par, NASA plans to launch a manned mission in the Orion spacecraft for testing purposes. They will investigate a piece of an asteroid collected from a previous Orion mission scheduled to launch sometime in 2018.
2024: NASA plans on retiring the space station by crashing into the ocean on earth, ending its orbital presence.
Late-2025 to 2030: NASA estimates that they will continue manned mission testing and development of space habitats, although exact plans aren’t set in stone.
Early-2030s: NASA plans to launch a manned mission to Mars sometime before 2033, although much of this is still speculative.
While these plans may still seem fuzzy, they make up what is currently the most concrete and expected timeline for man’s fateful trip to our potential future martian abode.
Image Source: NASA
So, within the next 15 years, whether it be NASA or another space agency, man will likely land on Mars marking a new era of space research that could potentially change the course of humanity – forever.