NASA's Journey to Mars
NASA will be using its lunar missions to prepare for a future exploration of Mars.
SPACE — NASA's road to Mars is via the moon.
NASA's Moon to Mars exploration program first proposed in 2015 consists of three phases.
The first, called 'Earth Reliant', involves using the International Space Station until 2024 to research deep space technologies, and study the effects of long-term space missions on the human body.
It also covers the development of the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System super heavy lift launch vehicle, or SLS.
The second phase, 'Proving Grounds', involves the creation of infrastructure in cislunar space such as the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway, to help the agency learn how to conduct operations in a deep space environment.
The Gateway space station is slated for completion in the mid-2020s. According to Space.com, NASA's 2019 fiscal budget request calls for a 2022 launch of the power and propulsion module. Two additional launches by 2025 will add habitation, logistics, and airlock functions.
According to the ESA, Gateway will serve as a staging post where astronauts can dock and leave their spacecraft, then travel to the lunar surface in a lander.
It will also provide them shelter, a place to stock up on fuel and supplies and relay communications, and a base to dispatch crew and robots to the moon.
Missions to Mars and its moons would begin during 'Earth Independent', the third and final phase, which could see NASA using the Lunar Gateway and a spacecraft such as the Deep Space Transport.
According to Universe Today, a station in the Red Planet's orbit, like Lockheed Martin's proposed Mars Base Camp, could also be built to allow crewed missions to journey to the Martian surface.
Based on a White House directive, NASA will be aiming to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, and then on Mars by the 2030s.
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