A journey to mars had been a topic of serious discussion for the past decade or so. After the moon, Mars seems to be humanity’s next destination in the journey to spread across the cosmos. But unlike the Apollo missions the Mars missions are not planned to be just a visiting trip, we are determined to stay there, to setup a permanent human habitat on mars.
“This is the first step in humanity’s quest for developing into an interplanetary species” said Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX in a conference a few weeks back where he announced his plan for taking humans to Mars.
SpaceX is now the newest contender in the Mars race. Previously MarsOne, NASA and the United Launch Alliance were the organisations who were engaged in the primary stages of their mission. But as of now the progress of MarsOne lacks the the momentum that they had at the start. NASA and the United Launch Alliance are currently active with NASA testing and developing their Orion space craft, and the United Launch Alliance is also working on their powerful rockets and thrusters.
SpaceX has came up with a plan which is very different from the others. In an animated mission video released by them, it is shown a rocket which is capable of launching a spacecraft (Dragon-2 or Red Dragon Capsule) into orbit and then come back and land vertically on the launch pad while a crane lifts and places another module of the space craft over the rocket and it re-launches. The fuel tanks of the space crafts gets filled in orbit by a taker which was already launched into orbit. Even though SpaceX has successfully tested and demonstrated this technology of vertical landing with much smaller rockets, this one is to be huge and therefore much more risky.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also announced that this is not going to be a one way trip and that he is planning to include a return option for the crew. If that is to ever become possible then this mission will clearly stand above that of MarsOne who doesn’t include a return option.
But the mission is currently very far from fulfilment, just at the planning stage. No one really knows whether that rocket and space crafts could be made with the present day funding and technology of SpaceX and also Musk has to find a way to provide the astronauts a better shielding from cosmic radiation outside the Earth’s magnetic field, in deep space.