First Stop: the Moon, Second Stop: Mars

As the Mars exploration missions get closer to happening, extensive preparation is going on to ensure the astronauts can cope while they’re up there. One of the key stages of this preparation includes spending one whole year traveling around the moon before being let loose on the Red Planet.

Phase 2 of NASA’s plan is due to happen in the late 2020’s and is the point in which astronauts will spend their year in orbit around the moon. Phase 1 will happen in the early half of the 2020’s. Greg Williams is NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and he disclosed how the agency intends to build a gateway around the moon that would act as a testing ground for the first of the Mars missions.

This orbit base situated on the moon could also serve as a staging point where spacecraft could launch from and transport humans on to Mars. “If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said. Experts feel that by astronauts spending a year orbiting the moon will be great practice and preparation for the future Mars missions. At least this way they can test all the equipment while they’re a little closer to home just in case anything does happen to go wrong.

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