NASA attempts to send human on Mars within 25 years

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : While life-threatening radiations are major concern for scientists, astronauts thinks that they can step in Mars, NASA experts said Tuesday. The US space organization believes that humans can reach the Red Planet within 25 years, but the technological and medical hurdles are huge.

"The cost of solving those means that under current budgets, or slightly expanded budgets, it's going to take about 25 years to solve those," said former NASA astronaut Tom Jones, who flew on four space shuttle missions before retiring in 2001

"We need to get started now on certain key technologies," he told reporters in Washington.

Mars, situated at a distance of 140 million miles away, faces scientific problems greater than anything encountered by the Apollo lunar missions.

With the help of modern day rocket technology, it would take astronauts up to nine months to reach Mars.

For example, experts feel that prolonged weightlessness can cause irreversible changes to blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision degradation. In such a condition, the skeleton starts to leach calcium and bone mass.

One way to reduce wear and tear on the human body is to dramatically cut down on travel time to Mars.

Jones called for nuclear propulsion systems that would have the added benefit of producing electricity on flights.

"If we start now, in 25 years we might have these technologies available to help us and protect us from these long transit times," he said

Under current conditions, outbound trip to Mars would take so long that any astronaut would receive the same amount of radiation than ordinarily would be deemed safe over the course of an entire career.

"We don't have the solution yet in terms of shielding, in terms of protecting you from cosmic rays and solar flares that you experience during this transit time," Jones said.

Experts have understood several technologies that need rapid development, including spacecraft that can survive the harsh entry into Mars and land softly enough, as well as the ability to lift people off the surface and head back to Earth.

NASA, as of now, has a new robotic lander called InSight zooming towards Mars, due to land on November 26 after taking off from California on May 5.

The $993 million project is conducted with the objective to expand human knowledge of interior conditions on Mars, inform efforts to send explorers there, and reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.

Jim Garvin, chief scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said InSight would fill in "critical unknowns" and help build a key understanding of Mars.

In 2020, NASA will send rover to Mars that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.