Humans 2 Mars conference discusses manned NASA mission by 2030

Will the first NASA astronauts land on Mars by 2030? Credit: NASA Haughton-Mars Project / Pascal Lee
Will the first NASA astronauts land on Mars by 2030? Credit: NASA Haughton-Mars Project / Pascal Lee

The goal of sending astronauts to Mars is one that NASA has had for a long time now, and a conference this week in Washington, DC is hoping to bring that dream closer to reality.

The Humans 2 Mars (H2M) Summit is being held at George Washington University from May 6-8, 2013 and brings together key players and leaders from NASA and the wider space community. Speakers include well-known names such as Buzz Aldrin, Charles Bolden, Miles O’Brien and Dennis Tito, among many others.

The conference is organized by Explore Mars, Inc. and seeks to address the challenges that lay ahead for such an ambitious mission.

As it stands now, the official plan from the Obama administration is as follows: “By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth.” Of course, actually landing and being able to walk around on the surface and do sampling, etc. is more what NASA has in mind. Landing on Mars is difficult due to the very thin atmosphere, but it is doable. Certainly the successful touchdown by the car-sized Curiosity rover last summer proves that.

As noted by NASA spokesman Allard Beutel in an email to The Washington Post, “That’s the written policy, which we generally refer to as ‘going to Mars,’ but obviously we’re looking at landing on Mars in the coming years, not just orbiting it. And before that is an asteroid mission. So, we have a number of incremental steps and missions ahead of us that will get better defined as we prepare to go to Mars.”

This conference represents the official NASA roadmap for sending humans to Mars, but there are others who want to do just that as well. As previously reported, the Inspiration Mars organization wants to send two people to the Red Planet by 2018. They would orbit the planet and then return to Earth. And then there’s Mars One, which wants to send the first human settlers to Mars in 2023.

Will NASA get there first, or will a private enterprise beat them to it? Either way, the next couple of decades should be very interesting indeed.

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