Sending humans to Mars would be an immense financial and logistical endeavor, taking two to three years on average and necessitating constant supplies of food, water and rocket fuel.
Spirit and Opportunity made history on Mars by outlasting expectations, serving over six years on each rover and discovering crucial information that helped scientists better comprehend its red surface. Both proved crucial in scientific discoveries that contributed to our knowledge about it.
Terrain plays an essential part in ensuring a spacecraft lands safely on any planet it visits, which makes understanding Mars’ terrain vital to mission planners designing future trips there.
RAD measured an increase in GCR radiation on Mars’ surface during September’s event, as well as an increase in solar energetic particle (SEP) fluxes accelerated to high energies by magnetic reconnection in solar flares and shock acceleration associated with Coronal Mass Ejections, only protons with energies above 170 MeV could reach Mars.
Protons traveling towards Mars interact with its atmosphere and regolith as they approach, expending energy through spallation as they dissipate energy and cause its SEP spectrum to shift shape; during September’s event, it shifted more dramatically than usual – by 10 times!
Mars exploration continues apace with spacecraft orbiting overhead and rovers on its surface, exploring its geology and history with the hope of understanding whether or not life once existed on its surface in its past or future incarnations.
The Curiosity rover, for example, is currently exploring the Jezero Crater area – a location that may once have held an ancient lake bed and river delta, providing it with an excellent chance to unearth microfossils as signs of past life.
Other nations are also gathering experience with Mars through commercial missions carrying scientific payloads on non-NASA spacecraft. These commercial missions could aid NASA as it works toward landing humans there, by developing strategies and technologies to navigate dust storms or study its atmosphere, creating safe zones for humans or robotic exploration as established in Antarctica, to minimize contamination risk from Earth microorganisms.
Rucker notes that any human expedition to Mars will require spacecraft capable of landing, taking off, and returning with fuel supplies for home. “That presents a major challenge,” Rucker remarks, adding “you don’t want to find yourself stuck there without an easy way back home.
Even when they’re safe on the surface of Mars, astronauts are vulnerable to dust storms that may present serious hazards for astronauts and astronauts alike. These sand and dirt storms are especially hazardous as their sharp particles chafe spacesuit surfaces and cause eye irritation; blocking sunlight could also result in equipment failure.
Other challenges astronauts must contend with include changing light/dark cycles, fatigue from constant work of spaceflight and boredom from long periods of solitude. Due to all this, some astronauts experience psychological stress and mental health problems such as difficulty thinking, remembering or learning new information; infections; their bones losing density or spinal discs becoming calcified and vertebrae losing calcification resulting in fractured vertebrae; consequently leading them to experience psychological stress and mental health issues that require psychological counseling for recovery.
Dreams of sending people to Mars have been around since at least the 1940s when Wernher von Braun first imagined it. Now NASA and other space agencies are actively working toward sending human mission by 2035 if all goes according to plan.
One of the major obstacles in landing humans on Mars will be cost. Luckily, existing technology may make the pricetag manageable; for instance, NASA’s InSight lander is a scaled-down version of Saturn V rocket which sent Curiosity rover there in 2011.
India’s Mangalyaan mission, carrying science instruments and serving as a test flight for interplanetary flight systems, has been one of the cheapest Mars missions ever attempted. Planners hope to eventually develop an Earth return vehicle (ERV), which could land astronauts on Mars before taking them home once their mission has concluded; scientists are exploring technologies that might make ERVs more affordable such as an inflatable heat shield that expands and inflates before entering Mars’ atmosphere.