NASA Unveils Three-Part Plan to Reach Mars by 2030s

NASA wants to put people on Mars by the 2030s. Last week, they detailed how that might become a reality.

In a report titled "NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration," the agency laid out a three-part plan on how it might reach the Red Planet.

"We are on a journey to Mars," read the report. "In the next few decades, NASA will take steps toward establishing a sustainable human presence beyond Earth, not just to visit but to stay."

The first phase involves more research on the International Space Station — especially when it comes to studying the effects of living in space for long periods of time — and further development of its most powerful rocket yet, called the Space Launch System (SLS).

Next, NASA wants to perform a variety of tasks in cislunar space, a fancy name for the area around the moon.

That includes the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which involves sending a solar-electric robotic probe to an asteroid, removing a boulder-sized chunk, and taking that back to cislunar orbit. NASA hopes to bring astronauts out to study the asteroid sample by 2025.

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The final part of the plan involves sending astronauts to orbit the Red Planet and possibly landing on one of its moons. Then comes the hardest part: landing human beings on Mars with the equipment to get off the planet's surface and return safely back to Earth.