It’s “very realistic” that humans will be on Mars in 20 years, says a NASA official

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As NASA prepares for new Artemis missions that will send astronauts to the moon and then to Mars, the director of the agency’s Johnson Space Center, Vanessa Wyche, said it is “very realistic” that humans will be on Mars in the next 20 years.

“The program that NASA has is to go to Mars, and that’s definitely our goal, to get to Mars,” Wyche said on to the west Washington Post Live on Tuesday.

She noted that Artemis missions will help NASA learn what is needed for further space exploration and for longer-duration missions. In addition, NASA views the Moon as a test bed for further space exploration.

The first mission under the Artemis program was an unmanned flight, and the agency used it to test the systems to make sure they could survive in the environment and travel in and out of space, and to train for future missions, Wyche said.

“One of the big things we had to find out was how the heat shield would work to make sure we could actually re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere,” Wyche said.

She noted that “the big surprise was how flawlessly everything worked” when spaceship indeed took off .

NASA will now continue to conduct post-flight instrument tests and measurements, or observe the spacecraft during its journey and return. The agency will also study technologies such as the heat shield that protects the spacecraft during its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere to ensure there are no issues or problems.

Artemis II, which will return humans to the moon, is expected to be launched by the end of 2024.

According to Viche, it is important to explore the moon, Mars and space because of the scientific knowledge that can be gained from it.

A trip to the moon takes three to six days, much shorter than the several months required to travel to Mars. As a result, Wyche noted that a more thorough study of the moon to test space technology would be beneficial for space exploration in distant places like Mars.

“We’ve been to one particular part of the moon,” she said. “We haven’t visited all areas of the moon, so we’re going to go to the polar regions with Artemis.”

Lunar ice and “other volatiles” located in these regions could potentially be used to produce fuel or fresh oxygen, Viche said, expanding people’s knowledge of what it’s like to live on another planet.

“That’s what we need to know to go further into the solar system — to get to Mars — or to go even further,” she said.

However, Wyche said there are technological gaps that the agency is trying to explore to enable longer-duration missions. Vieche noted that NASA is using the International Space Station to help with some of this research.

“From a technology perspective, how do we ensure that our crews have all the water they need? How do they have the proper environment when they are on these long journeys? One of the things we do on the International Space Station is water regeneration. So we cannot take all the water we would need to go on a very long journey. So, we will need to recover the water that the crews use during their activities. We have a technology that we use to do that,” Wyche said.

Technological limitations, such as time delays in communication between Earth and Mars, also require human involvement in Mars missions, Wiche said.

“The collaborative work of robotic humans will allow us to actually dig further,” Wiche said. “[Це] will allow us to use humans to assist robots and make decisions, find and discover.”

One day there may even be a permanent base on the moon. Wyche noted that the Johnson Space Center is considering the creation of a Gateway — a small habitat in lunar orbit — to be used as a launching point for lunar and space exploration, as well as for use as a home base for research.

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