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Ensuring NASA Puts a Man on Mars this Decade

Big Picture


Space exploration is a very unique topic. It’s an important intersection between science and politics. It has been used as a crowning jewel for nationalistic pride. And it represents the essential curiosity and tenacity of the human spirit. However, in the 21st century, there has been a lack of progress in space exploration: an odd shame given how rapidly we were progressing 50-70 years ago. If the US wants to get back into space exploration, it should start off by getting someone on Mars.


Graphic From: Nasa’s journey to Mars https://www.nasa.gov/content/nasas-journey-to-mars. Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

This figure illustrates how complicated it will be to get to Mars, as well as some of the challenges that NASA will face.

Operative Definitions


  1. Phenomena: An uncommon occurrence that is generally caused by something unknown to us.

  2. Optimization: Finding the most efficient and effective way of performing a task.

  3. Thin Atmosphere: An atmosphere that isn’t large in the volume of its gases.


Important Facts and Statistics


  1. Due to its orbit, Mars can be anywhere between 55 to 400 million kilometers away from Earth at a given time. 

  2. It would take close to a year to get to Mars with NASA’s current technology.

  3. Mars’ gravity is less than half of that of Earth’s, which could cause detrimental health effects depending on the length of the mission. Humans that are on a spacecraft will become far weaker during the mission due to the time they will spend without gravity.

  4. Due to the distance between the Earth and Mars, NASA will have to pre-program a set of instructions as the craft descends.  Remote commands between the Earth and Mars take a much longer time to travel through space.


Four-Point Plan


(1) Set a specific year for launch. 

NASA has been procrastinating the manned Mars launch for years, to the point where it is now projected to take place in the late 2030s. At this rate, there is no guarantee that it will happen. Scientists at NASA have been setting the launch date back for over 50 years; there were plans for a launch sometime between 2020 and 2021, but that didn’t happen due to the pandemic. Setting key dates for smaller goals leading up to the launch should also be considered


(2) Identify the best location to land. 

Mars is a very big planet--close to the size of Earth. The rocket cannot land somewhere on a whim. A specific location is important because, if the astronauts land in the incorrect place, they may be irreparably far from areas they need to explore. Also, in order to make the mission a worthwhile endeavor, researchers should locate areas where there could be signs of life or other interesting phenomena.


(3) Calculate the optimal route and time to leave the Earth. 

The distance from Earth to Mars is not fixed because both planets rotate around the Sun at different rates; that is, they rotate at different speeds, so the position between the two bodies changes. Calculating the most optimal route is very important because it can save lots of time and energy. Starting the mission when they are 55 million kilometers apart may not make the most sense because the distance will have increased since launch. Other factors like gravity and asteroids could also impact the speed, so scientists must anticipate these needs ahead of time in order to optimize their calculations.


(4) Make sure astronauts are as comfortable as possible. 

The comfort of astronauts is often overlooked by many. Astronauts cannot take off their suits due to a lack of oxygen. Also, Mars is extremely cold and has a thin atmosphere, so taking off your suit would result in a very quick death. Because the astronauts are likely going to be on Mars for a long time, it is important that NASA gives them the best suits and other materials possible because they'll be making critical observations and a big sacrifice by leaving home for years.


Why This Initiative is Important


Space is a very complicated field with many facets worthy of exploration. Some countries want to hold success in space as a symbol of status or geopolitical power, while other countries want to learn about space and its chemical and physical properties. Getting a manned mission to Mars is very important; it will be the first time any human will have  gone to another planet and will be the second solar body that humans visit. Astronauts can also collect data, and researchers can use this to further study how we might eventually colonize Mars in the event of overpopulation or lack of resources on Earth. Lastly, exploration on Mars will certainly pave the way for any future space exploration, such as looking for other habitable worlds or extraterrestrial creatures.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Brain, Marshall. “What If an Astronaut Went on a Space Walk without Wearing a Spacesuit?” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 8 Sep. 2022, https://science.howstuffworks.com/suitless-space-walk.htm

Katz, Osnat. “Landing on Mars Is Difficult, Often Fails, and Will Never Be Risk-Free.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 21 May 2021, https://phys.org/news/2021-05-mars-difficult-risk-free.html

“Where Should Future Astronauts Land on Mars? Follow the Water – NASA Mars Exploration.” NASA, NASA, 20 Feb. 2021, https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8851/where-should-future-astronauts-land-on-mars-follow-the-water/

 “If the Universe Formed from Nothing, Who Created the Nothing?” Www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPEmBzlSU2I&t=2064s.

Petersen, Kate S. “Mars Mission: 5 Things Humans Need to Achieve before the Trip.” Inverse, 23 Dec. 2020, www.inverse.com/science/mars-mission-5-things-before-the-trip.

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