In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set the goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the decade. His words, "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” inspired Americans to dream big. His speech set NASA’s Apollo program in motion with the goal to advance space exploration. On July 20, 1969, 600 million people around the world watched as Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 moon lander and took their first steps on the moon's surface.
In the 50 years since the first lunar landing, humans are dreaming to go even further. The next frontier for human space exploration is Mars – and the race is on to get there! Since 1960, NASA and other space agencies have sent robotic missions to explore the red planet. Some missions included flybys while others became orbiting satellites to study the surface for years. These early missions sent back photographs of dust storms, volcanoes, and canyons that provided information on the surface of Mars. In 1975, NASA’s Viking was the first lander to reach the surface. 1997 brought the first rover to Mars, Sojourner, that included cameras and hardware for scientific experiments. Since then, NASA has sent several more rovers to explore the surface and collect data. Robotic missions have found evidence of ancient water on Mars as well as recent evidence of water currently flowing on the surface.
While robotic missions have been successful, we now look to have humans set foot on the red planet. But a 34 million mile trip to Mars will require real human ingenuity. How will humans survive the journey through deep space to Mars? And when they arrive, where will they live? Unlike Earth, Mars is a desolate and dangerous planet. Humans must find protection from poisonous radiation, freezing temperatures, and an unsuitable atmosphere.
But the human spirit thrives in the face of impossible odds. Landing on the Moon was once seen as a faraway dream, but a strong-willed team of over 400,000 people including engineers and scientists made it a reality. And organizations around the world are working up solutions to bring humans closer to Mars. Already in the works is the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, designed by NASA to safely send humans into deep space.
What is your vision for a human mission to Mars? What technologies do we need to survive the journey and live on the red planet? What might a human settlement look like on Mars that not only keeps citizens alive but happy? Unleash your imagination to share your concept of a human mission to Mars!