NASA unveils plan to send humans beyond Mars

NASA unveils plan to send humans beyond Mars

NASA unveils plan to send humans beyond Mars

NASA said the lunar surface will provide a test bed for Mars and beyond - JOE SKIPPER / Reuters

NASA said the lunar surface will provide a test bed for Mars and beyond – JOE SKIPPER / Reuters

Creating settlements on Mars will allow humans to push deeper into the Solar System, NASA said, as the space agency unveiled long-term plans to take astronauts beyond the Red Planet.

Ahead of the Artemis mission’s test flight, which aims to send humans to the moon for the first time in 50 years, NASA said the lunar surface will provide a test bed for Mars and beyond.

Unlike the Apollo missions, this time Artemis’ goal is to stay and build a permanent home on the Moon, where lessons can be learned before venturing further afield.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Dr. Bhavya Lal, NASA’s associate administrator for technology, policy and strategy, said the long-term goal was to have a “presence throughout the Solar System”.

“The point is, we don’t stop when we go to Mars,” he said. “When we have thriving settlements on Mars, we will probably have enough technology to push us deeper into space.

“I think the idea is just that we don’t stop. Our long-term strategic visions for having a sustained presence on the Moon, Mars and throughout the Solar System.

“At the highest level our goal is not simply to visit one place, it is to bring the Solar System and beyond into our economic realm.”

Full Moon Touchdown expected in 2025

This week’s Artemis test flight marks the beginning of a new era of spaceflight where humans venture off-planet not just to visit other worlds, but to stay and set up bases.

The first launch is unmanned and will test the systems of the Special Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft which will separate from the SLS and travel to Mars with the crew.

In 2024, the Artemis II mission will take astronauts as far as they have ever been in space, approximately 4,600 miles beyond the far side of the moon. And if all goes according to plan, a full touchdown on the lunar surface is expected in 2025.

For the first trips to the Moon, the astronauts will travel aboard the Orion spacecraft, but SpaceX was later tasked with devising a vehicle that could carry people back and forth.

A new space station, the lunar portal, will also be built to orbit the moon and provide a starting point for Mars, as well as a way to access the lunar surface.

In a briefing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to launch, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said he expected to send the first astronauts to Mars by the late 1930s and said the world was entering a new era of space exploration.

“We will go back to the moon, but we will live, learn and develop new technologies, because we will eventually go to Mars,” he said.

“The gateway will be more of an outpost and there could be all kinds of new things we’re doing there. It is possible that a spacecraft could be assembled there in lunar orbit and then embark on its journey to Mars.

“There is a great universe to explore out there and this is the next step in this exploration. It is no longer the Apollo generation, it is the Artemis generation, and this brings a whole new world of discovery.

“By 2040 we may have detected life in other parts of the universe and be thinking about what it will do in our desire for exploration.”

The first unmanned test flight was to be launched on Monday, but it suffered several technical setbacks and it was feared that storms could delay take-off. One of the lightning towers flanking the Mega Moon rocket was struck by lightning on Saturday.

A delay would bring the launch back to September 3 or 5, but there are fears that a hurricane is brewing that could cause even those dates to fail.

One of the lightning rod towers flanking the Mega Moon rocket was struck by lightning: NASA / Keegan Barber

One of the lightning rod towers flanking the Mega Moon rocket was struck by lightning: NASA / Keegan Barber

Speaking at Cape Canaveral ahead of launch, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said it was imperative to return to the moon before attempting to reach Mars.

“There is a practical need to go to the moon before Mars,” he said.

“If you go to the sporting goods store and buy a brand new tent and boots, you won’t go out into the Alaskan wilderness without trying that stuff out and making sure it works.

“So go a little closer to some local places that maybe you can get back to pretty fast if your shoelaces break.

“We won’t have a chance to return when we go to Mars, so proving that everything works, the logistics, the habitats and the hatches and the suits, the rovers and the wheels, first to the moon, is vital.”

Mold in space will test living organisms in extreme conditions

The “Aspergillus niger” mushroom is a small hard life form.

Commonly known as “black mold”, it has been found living happily on the International Space Station (ISS), seemingly oblivious to the lack of gravity or the rigors of space radiation.

Its spores can survive doses of radiation 200 times more than would kill a human, and it is now being detonated around the Moon to see how it fares in deep space.

Scientists are leveraging NASA’s Artemis test flight to send experiments that could improve their understanding of how some living organisms thrive in extreme conditions.

The findings will help create space-proof crops that humans will need to inhabit on the Moon and Mars and provide clues on how to leverage their natural defense mechanism to protect astronauts from radiation.

Asperillus niger - Sinhyu / iStockphoto

Asperillus niger – Sinhyu / iStockphoto

NASA scientists believe “Aspergillus niger” is protected from radiation by high levels of melanin, the chemical in the body that produces pigmentation in hair, eyes and skin.

To find out, the researchers are sending in four different versions of the mushroom. One strain is normal, one has been genetically modified to remove its melanin, and two others have been modified to eliminate DNA repair centers.

The samples will be launched into NASA’s Orion crew module and launched into space, where they will travel around the moon for three weeks before plunging into the Pacific.

Ye Zhang, of NASA’s SMD Biological and Physical Science Experiment, told The Telegraph: “The mushroom experiment focuses on DNA damage and was chosen ‘Aspergillus niger’ because it was found on the ISS and elsewhere. contaminated areas, so it appears to be very resistant to radiation.

Team to test the effects of zero gravity and radiation on crops

“In deep space, the dose of space radiation is not that high, but it is constant and this causes serious damage to the cells, and this is what astronauts will be subjected to.

“Aspergillus niger appears to be able to adapt to this environment and if we can find out how it is doing we may be able to reproduce the effect in some kind of drug, and this could be really crucial for deep space travel.”

The team is also sending plant seeds and will attempt to regrow them on Earth, to discover the effect of zero gravity and radiation on crops.

Yeast cells are also hitchhiking, and researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California will examine the impact of radiation on their growth.

“Artemis I offers us a unique opportunity to discover how deep space impacts living organisms, far more than we could ever get on earth,” added Zhang.

“We can look at the strategies they are using to survive and this also has implications for human health. If they have ways to improve survival, humans can exploit this too. “

Orion is expected to deflate with its previous cargo in early October and the team expects to get results within a year of returning the samples.

The findings could not only help in spaceflight, but could help against radiation on Earth, perhaps even producing compounds that could be used to protect against UV and gamma rays.

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