Feature Image: SpaceX’s Spaceship, first test vehicle. Credit: SpaceX

The answer seems to be a definite yes! The real question is, how long will it take before we get there?

With the recent successful launch of the SpaceX Rocket on 30th July 2020, delivering two NASA astronauts safely to the International Space Station, it brings the challenging endeavour of sending humans to Mars, one step closer.

What's Elon Musk Planning?

The private launch of astronauts to the ISS was an historic flight, being the first human spaceflight to lift off from the United States since 2011 and a joint SpaceX-NASA venture.  However, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has bigger ambitions and has asked his staff to put their focus onto the company’s next space craft, Starship. Starship is already being built and tested and is designed to carry a larger payload and more crew to the Moon but Elon Musk has his eyes firmly on Mars.  He is planning to send their first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 and if all goes well, a human mission is proposed for 2024, which seems very ambitious.

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is designed as a fully reusable transportation system that can carry both crew and cargo, in excess of 100 metric tonnes.  It is the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed and is destined for Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Since 2016, Elon Musk has described a two-phased mission to colonise Mars. The first will send at least two Starship spacecrafts to land on Mars, carrying drones and robots to discover resources such as water and investigate any geographic hazards.

The second phase will send two more Starship spacecrafts, carrying the first astronauts to land on Mars, along with all the necessary equipment to build a sustainable human base camp on the red planet.

SpaceX Colony on Mars
Artist rendering of Starship and a colonised Mars. Image Credit: SpaceX

What's NASA Planning?

Via their Artemis program, NASA will first set up a permanent base on the Moon as a stepping-stone to the red planet.  Initially, NASA will launch the Gateway spaceship that will sit in orbit around the Moon, allowing astronauts to transport down to the surface to carry out experiments and discover vital water sources and other rare metals and resources.

In fact NASA is working with commercial companies to develop human landers to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024, with a long-term goal of global lunar access and returnable landing techniques.  They have also laid out plans for further missions to Mars, understanding and harvesting Martian resources for fuel, water and building materials and are aiming for a crewed Mars surface landing in 2030.

NASA SLS Rocket
Illustration of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) Image: NASA

First Private Lunar Mission

With all this frenetic activity around space flight and new technologies being developed, flying into space will soon be accessible for not just well-trained astronauts but ‘Space Tourists’!  SpaceX announced their first private passenger to fly around the Moon in 2023 and be part of a week-long space mission.  Hopefully the first of many private passengers taking up the chance for a trip of a life-time, which will help fund further development of SpaceX’s Starship program.

Commercial Partnerships

With such bold and audacious time-scales for landing humans back on the Moon and eventually onto Mars, government funding will not hit the mark.  To have any chance of succeeding in these ambitious goals, collaboration is the key.  This includes working with other countries, big commercial business, stakeholder support and forming global partnerships.  Allowing independent businesses to work in a non-NASA operating model will expand knowledge and expertise and allow for the development of new space flight technologies at a much more increased speed and with potentially more innovation.

The time will come when we are all watching excitedly as the first humans take that incredible first step onto Mars!  Whether it is in the next few years or longer, it will mark a complete change in how we humans perceive ourselves.  We will become an interplanetary species with Earthlings and eventually, Martians! 

Donna, at Beam Me Up Media, is aiming to produce a television series featuring the amazing places and characters making WA the go-to destination for space science and stargazing.

Donna Vanzetti

Author

When is the best time to view mars?

Next month will be the best time to view Mars this year! Find out the best times to spot the red planet!

We look forward to welcoming you to our friendly community of Stargazers & Astronomy Lovers where we thrive on making learning about the galaxy easy & fun!

Carol Redford - Founder Stargazers Club WA

Carol

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