NASA is developing a range of exciting and innovative technology in order to help humans reach Mars. The Red Planet is an inhospitable place that has never been visited by humans, and although NASA has landed a preliminary rover on the surface, which was roughly the same size as a domestic car, sending astronauts is a whole different ball game.
According to NASA, they are currently working on six major technology projects in order to get there safely.
So which technology is NASA developing that will help astronauts reach Mars?
The first requirement is actually getting there.
6 NASA Technological Advancements
Traveling to Mars requires a voyage into deep space of over 150 million miles. In order to speed up the lengthy journey, NASA is working on propulsion systems. They haven’t yet figured out how to get into warp drive, but they have investigated numerous options including nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric. These systems use nuclear fission but have different advantages; nuclear electric is efficient but nuclear thermal propulsion provides more power. Perhaps NASA will somehow combine both systems in one?
2. Inflatable Heat Shield
Landing on any planet with an atmosphere is intensely hot, so all spacecraft require a heat shield to protect against burning up as they enter the atmosphere. NASA is working on inflatable heat shields that are easy and small to store in the limited room of a spaceship and can be deployed when necessary.
3. New Spacesuits
NASA is working on high tech space suits that will be suitable for all space exploration. These next generation spacesuits allow the wearer to move in a natural way and are designed to provide the maximum life support and safety. The space suits designed specifically for Mars will provide cooling for the hot Martian summers and warmth to combat the sub-zero temperatures of the Martian winter.
4. Landing Craft and Living Space
Once the astronauts land on Mars, they will be travelling and living in the same Rover. This new Rover will be pressurised with breathable air, and the crew will be able to live in relative comfort for the duration of the mission. They will be able to use the onboard lab for investigation and drive the Rover in their ordinary clothes rather than donning space suits every time.
5. Power Supply
The astronauts will need a reliable and uninterrupted power supply, because if this fails, it is all over! NASA was developing solar power for this mission, but nuclear fission seems to be the more reliable option. This is because the Martian winters can be very long. This combined with dust storms which block out the light and can last for months just would not be reliable enough.
6. New Advances in Communication
Keeping in contact and relaying information to Earth is crucially important. To counter the long distances that information will need to travel, NASA is working on a laser communication system to speed things up.
This will not lead to instant conversations and communications. According to NASA, sending a map via the current technology would take 9 years to arrive. With a laser communications system this is reduced to 9 weeks.
Not all these technologies will eventually be used. At the time of writing which Technology is NASA developing that will help astronauts reach Mars, could all change or lead to other developments.