NASA is working every day at lightning speed to prepare for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first-ever manned mission to Mars. As recently as Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, engineers working at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana welded together the first two segments of the Orion Crew module. The module will fly on top of the space exploration’s rocket, known as the Space Launch System (SLS), on a mission that will go beyond the far side of the moon to arrive at the famed red planet. Bill Hill, the associate administrator for Explorations, stated, “We’re progressing toward eventually sending astronauts deep into space.” This demonstrates just how excited everyone at NASA is about preparing for the dynamic Mars adventure.
The Orion crew module will be made up of seven separate large aluminum panels that have to be welded together in a meticulous, order and fashion. The tunnel of the Orion will be used by the astronauts to move from the crew module to the spacecraft. The first weld completed on Saturday is just the beginning to what will eventually connect the tunnel to the forward bulkhead, where many of the critical systems of the Orion are located. It is an exciting time for NASA since a manned mission to Mars represents the most challenging display of advances in technology since the space race of the 1960s that put a man on the moon in July 1969.
As NASA prepares for the Mars adventure, there are other exciting missions in the works as well. The space agency is also developing the ability to put humans on an asteroid by 2025, and Mars should expect a visit from Earth sometime in the 2030s representing the first humans to visit the fourth planet from the sun. Referred to as a rich destination for scientific discovery, Mars at one point had an atmosphere that could sustain life according to the results of data collected from over 30 years of studying the planet. There are several theories about what happened to create the current atmosphere on the red planet since it is believed that it contained surface water billions of years ago. Prior to sending the first robot rover to the dry planet, scientists expected the rover to find large deposits of carbonates since carbon dioxide makes up most of the atmosphere. However, low concentrations of carbon were actually discovered due to the fact that carbon is widely distributed on the planet.
A one-way trip to Mars can take up to seven months depending on the date of the launch. Since Mars and Earth are in different orbits, the expected time it takes to travel between the two planets can vary from six to eight months. It has been determined, according to Mars One, that the most direct and efficient route to Mars from the Earth is called the Hohmann Transfer Orbit. Although the best route to take, the trip will need a powerful vehicle to assure the astronauts arrive safely to their destination.
The former space shuttle engines are going to be modified to meet the new requirements of the SLS vehicle mission, which includes software as well as an all-new engine controller resulting from data collected during a July 2015 test of the SLS RS-25 rocket engine. Once the SLS is completed, according to NASA, it will be the most powerful and largest rocket ever built to carry humans into deep space.
Research conducted on the International Space Station is also a part of the preparation for the trip. In addition to studying the effects of space on the human body over an extended period, the crew of the ISS will help to develop long-range communications for the trip that can take up to eight months. It is truly the next big and bold step for mankind, and NASA is attempting to cover all the necessary precautions to make sure the crew of EM-1 have a productive and safe flight.
By Jireh Gibson
Edited By Leigh Haugh
Mars One: How Long Does It Take to Travel to Mars?
NASA: Pedal to the Metal – RS-25 Engine Revs Up Again
NASA: First Pieces of NASA’s Orion for Next Mission Come Together at Michoud
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Dave Mathis’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License