Now for something completely out of this world.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has officially announced, this week, it plans to send humans to the red planet – in a future manned mission that will see humans first attempt to land on the surface of an asteroid, and if successful, the later goal being to put those human astronauts on the actual surface of Mars.
“NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s,” the press release issued by the U.S government-funded space organization read.
“While robotic explorers have studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station. Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory are helping us prove many of the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space, including Mars.”
“The space station also advances our understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health,” NASA says.
The mission to Mars will be powered by Orion – a spacecraft which NASA says will explore the asteroid in the 2020s, later returning to Earth with samples of what the team was able to find.
The goal of the mission is clear, says the organization:
“This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities, such as Solar Electric Propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars.”
NASA states that the futuristic space mission will rely on Orion, and an evolved version of the “SLS” (or, Space Launch System), that will be “the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.” The BBC reports that this “powerful new rocket” will see its debut in either 2017 or 2018.
As for NASA’s Mars-bound Orion spacecraft? – Well that’s about to see its maiden voyage. “This is huge; Thursday is a giant day for us,” Charlie Bolden, NASA’s administrator said. The ship’s first flight will send Orion “twice around the globe, throwing the ship up to an altitude of almost 6,000km (3,600 miles),” the news organization says.
It will later re-enter Earth’s atmosphere:
“This will set up a fast fall back to Earth, with a re-entry speed into the atmosphere close to 30,000km/h (20,000mph) – near what would be expected of a capsule coming back from the Moon.”
Despite NASA conducting Orion’s first real test-flight around planet Earth, this week, however, an actual manned mission to Mars is still expected to be at least 20-years out.
World Asteroid Day
The news that NASA is further expanding its exploration into deep space, with the ultimate intent being human exploration of planets that have otherwise only been explored by robots (thus far), follows just days after Queen’s Brian May, along with a number of top scientists, artists and business leaders, including; Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and Peter Gabriel – announced World Asteroid Day, a new public campaign aimed at raising awareness around the serious possibility of an asteroid impact on Earth.
“The first World Asteroid Day will take place on 30 June 2015, the anniversary of the Tunguska explosion. Founding partners include The Planetary Society and California Academy of Sciences. Events will take place around the world to help raise awareness of the threat posed by asteroids,” WIRED reports.
“The group have co-signed a declaration demanding increased use of technology to detect and track near-Earth asteroids and better discovery and tracking of new asteroid threats,” Temperson explains, while adding that an asteroid big enough to destroy an entire city “is likely to hit Earth once every 100 years, it has been estimated.”
You can learn more about the mission to Mars – at NASA.gov.