Mars: The Next Frontier of Space Exploration
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(Featured image via NASA)
Is it possible of for a group of people, carefully chosen by experts, to travel to Mars, live there permanently, and sustain the harsh rigors of the planet? The answer, at long last, is yes. Breakthroughs in technology and support from private investors have finally made this impossible seeming mission possible.
The book, and soon to be motion picture, “The Martian” written by Andy Weir, gives us a glimpse into the feasibility of space exploration. While writing the novel, Weir meticulously researched the science and technology and created a story merged with fictional and factual aspects based off of past research and exploration of Mars. While the story is fictional, the factual basis for the novel is great enough that it has stirred fans' interest in Mars and possibilities of the future.
For the past 40 years, NASA has used robotics to study Mars and other reaches of deep space. The United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom have all attempted to land rovers on the surface of Mars, with the United States being the only country with any success. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers both landed in 2004, while the latest rover, Curiosity, landed in 2012. Curiosity is still alive and collecting information as of 2015.
While these rovers have done well in studying Mars, measuring everything from radiation to atmosphere levels, scientists are itching to add a more human element to the equation. This isn't without some risk and difficulty. It would take a human crew between 6 to 9 months just to get to Mars, and survival on the planet would be difficult.
The possibilities and potential discoveries, however, are endless. Scientists and Astrologists have claimed for years that there is evidence of bodies of water once present on the surface of Mars. According to NASA, “Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system. Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth.”
Mars One, a company based out of the Netherlands and funded by private investors, may be the next big leap into the exploration of this mysterious planet. The goal of Mars One is to "establish a permanent human settlement on Mars" by 2027 and a pool of candidates ready for the challenge has already been chosen. This seems unrealistic to some, and Mars One has been criticized by scientists and engineers for its lofty and ambitious goals.
As far as NASA is concerned, their plans are to first send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and then to Mars in the 2030s.
The race is on. As NASA and Mars One continue put their projects in motion, the curiosity and wonder of the general public grows. If the projects are successes then, who knows? We may see humans living on other planets in our lifetimes.
There's more than one way to get to space ...