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Man's Journey to Mars Will Include a Year-Long Layover Around the Moon

May 17, 2017 09:39 AM EDT
A Plane Is Dwarfed As It Flies Past The Moon
A deep space gateway will be built at the lunar orbit to serve as testing ground of technologies for deep space explorations.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Astronauts up for a journey to Mars should be prepared for the longest layover in history. NASA's plan to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s will reportedly include a year-long crewed orbit around the moon.

While recent research analyzed the potential of mining rocket fuel from the moon to get to other planets, the plan to spend a year in cislunar orbit is actually to test and prepare for human's eventual touchdown on Mars.

According to a report from Space, the agency will be building a deep-space gateway around the moon to be a testing ground for operations and technology that will be used during the upcoming missions to Mars. This would also be the launching point for spacecraft bound for the neighboring planet. The one-year orbit is planned for 2028.

It will be a while before the year-long mission around the moon will come into fruition. Before then, there are at least five planned missions -- including four crewed ones -- in the works to deliver infrastructure like a crew habitat and the Deep Space Transport vehicle that will be used to bring humans to Mars.

"If we could conduct a year-long crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back," NASA's Greg Williams said during the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington D.C.

Williams shared details about the first two phases of the humans to Mars plan. However, the NASA official emphasized that their plan is constantly evolving as the agency enters collaborations with industry partners and various countries.

"We're trying to lead this journey to Mars with a broad range of partnerships," Williams explained. "One of the things we'll be doing over the next few years is, putting that package together: what players want to provide what -- both nationally and internationally -- and how we can together, with NASA in an orchestrating role, really move out on these crewed missions to Mars."

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