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article imageNASA's 3-part plan to send humans to Mars

By Tim Sandle     Oct 1, 2018 in Science
NASA has unveiled an ambitious three-stage plan, outlining the agencies next phases for human pace missions. The National Space Exploration Plan, backed by President Trump, includes visits to the Moon and to Mars.
The space agency's National Space Exploration Plan, coming on its 60th anniversary, is designed to meet Trump's December 2017 Space Policy Directive-1 (to “refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery"). Included in the detail is the aim for a Moon base within the next ten years and a human mission to Mars within the next twenty years.
The Exploration Campaign has five strategic goals:
Transition U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to commercial operations that support NASA and the needs of an emerging private sector market.
Lead the emplacement of capabilities that support lunar surface operations and facilitate missions beyond cislunar space.
Foster scientific discovery and characterization of lunar resources through a series of robotic missions.
Return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a sustained campaign of exploration and use.
Demonstrate the capabilities required for human missions to Mars and other destinations.
These goals are divided into three stages. The first involves the commercialization of satellites. This is termed the transition of low-Earth orbit activities, moving them from direct government funding to commercial services and partnerships. The second point is to establish a permanent base on the Moon, to enable the resources to be exploited and for further scientific discoveries to take place. There will also be a lunar orbiting platform called the Gateway, which will be the launch site for deep-space missions, including missions to Marts.
Which connects to the third point, which is to land humans on the Martian surface via a spacecraft named Orion. This comes under a subsection of NASA called the Exploration Campaign. While NASA hopes to have astronauts walking around on Mars by the 2030s, the agency has flexibility built in and this could change if NASA researchers need more time or if the results of the planned Mars 2020 rover and helicopter expeditions provide data indicating environmental concerns.
Whether NASA will get to Mars first remains to be seen. Private companies, most notably SpaceX, are similarly working on plans to go to the Moon and Mars.
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