Did serious preparations to send people on Mars already begin?
Next generation of spacecraft, on the wings of newly developed ‘super-rocket’, will be able to transport humans to Mars, and beyond. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program was closed in 2011, so this is going to be the grand opening of their new program. First flight test is scheduled for December 4th. The unmanned flight is supposed to reach the point 3, 600 miles above the earth, make two orbits, and return after 4.5 hours. The spacecraft will be flying through Earth’s atmosphere at temperatures close to 4,000 degree Fahrenheit, before it lands in the Pacific Ocean. Orion is designed to take a crew of up to six members on an interplanetary mission, exploring planets, moons and other celestial bodies, and return them safely back home. First missions will probably be intended to reach and board some of the asteroids swooshing through our solar system. Soon, Armageddon won’t be a Sci-Fi movie any more. It might become a sort of documentary. After that, board on for Mars. This is an important project employing companies from all around the USA, led by giants such as Lockheed Martin, United Technologies Aerospace Systems and Rocketdyne.
At the same time NASA’s space exploration simulation project (HI-SEAS) on Hawaii, mimicking the conditions of life on Mars, might be a part of the synchronized effort to create necessary preconditions for future manned missions on our neighboring planet. This is an ongoing NASA Human Research Program, consisting of several similar studies. Six-member crew of Mission Three is already spending their first days living inside the dome in a remote area of the Hawaiian Islands. The diameter of the dome is 11 meters, and the total living space is confined to 93 square meters. In order to mitigate the effects of claustrophobic environment, ceiling is designed to give the illusion of wider space. Electricity is dependent on the solar panels, and spare power supply is ensured thanks to the system running on hydrogen fuel. Crew will spend 254 days inside the perimeter, and will be allowed to get out of the dome only under particular circumstances, wearing specially designed space suits.
Throughout the history humankind has been obsessed with Mars. As a mythological god or a creature of high powers it was highly esteemed and admired throughout the world. Its magnetic attraction did not dwindle in modern times. Today, it is a potential alien base, or a future human colony – an adventurers’ playground. Last year Dutch non-profit organization Mars One has invited volunteers from around the world to apply for a one-way trip to the Red Planet that’s supposed to happen in 2022. Astonishingly, some 200,000 people applied, determined to leave our planet for good. The rest of us are probably wondering what drives these men and women to willingly go into exile from the only place supporting life that we know of. Every day, scientists, researchers, and engineers are bringing us closer to the moment when we’ll find out if their venture was worth it.