“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” When Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on an alien terrain – and one that wasn’t Earth’s – in 1969 and uttered these words, he instilled fascination and awe in the hearts of millions. Many have fantasized the exploration and colonization of our sister planet, but the prospect of earthlings actually traveling to Mars has never been so attainable.
Now we’ve got another “space race” brewing and everyone wants to make their mark. For years, rovers have mapped Mars’ landscape, transmitting data and images to eager scientists. Currently, several organizations around the world are investing in technology to thrust mankind into relatively unknown territory.
An emerging private spaceflight program Mars One, based in the Netherlands, announced that it is in the process of forging partnerships with leading technology companies to develop the means necessary for exploration. By 2025 – a mere 11 years from now – Mars One plans to form a human colony on the red planet.
Before they continue this pursuit, however, the lander and satellite would need to test technologies necessary to sustain life. For example, spacesuit designers are currently testing a prototype to see if it could withstand Mars’ atmosphere. Any suit for a human explorer must provide plentiful oxygen, comfortable temperature, and pressure and radiation shields.
Toxins present in the dust may also pose a threat to human health, so the suits need to withstand yet another element. Many are skeptical of these suits’ ability to control such a tall order of requirements. To test the dexterity, the Austrian Space Program set up obstacle courses in four separate locations. Among the suits tested were the NDX-2 suit by the Human Spaceflight Laboratory at the University of North Dakota.
Another initiative, led by NASA, will send out deep-space explorer Orion this fall. Launching 3,600 miles above Earth, Orion’s maiden voyage will be unmanned and will, eventually, carry a human crew to Mars.
While many organizations are making efforts to take humans to a whole new world, they still rely on crowd funding and sponsorship to develop the necessary technology. They also need young, innovative minds (like yours) to survive!