Scientists at NASA and DARPA have had a busy week working towards preparing for the first manned Mars mission, after discussing possible landing sites and ways that the red planet could be terraformed.
In the face of the massive logistical challenges that surround sending human explorers to the neighboring red planet Mars, NASA has already started to scope out the perfect spot on the surface for astronauts to land and eventually set up a place to live.
According to a report from Discovery News, the agency will hold a workshop this fall in Houston to begin exploring possible landing sites for the first manned mission to Mars, set to take place by the mid-to-late 2030s. Researchers at the workshop will sort through a series of 62-mile-wide “exploration zones,” looking specifically for resource availability and the potential for scientific study.
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has also been looking for the best way to terraform the red planet. If settlers were able to create a source of essential resources like water and oxygen, then the need for constant resupply missions would be eliminated. DARPA scientists are currently looking for ways to make certain species more resilient against inhospitable conditions, with the hopes of one day bringing them along to Mars.
According to Jim Green, the head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, the logistical discussion surrounding the first manned Mars mission is likely to turn into a “hot debate.” The meetings taking place this year will lay the blueprints for what a station on Mars would need, how it would appear, and how it would function.
NASA will conduct further studies on the chosen exploration zones over the coming years, using the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to collect information from above the surface. Engineers want to identify the best possible spots before the orbiters fall out of commission in a few years.
Green says he thinks that this is a giant step toward figuring out how humans could function on Mars. As the details fall into place, the first manned mission to Mars is starting to seem like more and more of a reality.