NASA is ready to send humans back to the Moon, travel to Mars, and maybe put down some roots and stay awhile in both places. When NASA released its new objectives for space exploration earlier this year, the world got a glimpse of what’s to come in the near future of space exploration.
The set of revised objectives released by NASA, which now total 63, detail their intended framework for the agency’s Moon to Mars mission. The objectives were formulated after receiving feedback from industry, academia and international partners – and the public. The objectives are divided into four categories of exploration: transportation and habitation, Moon and Mars infrastructure, operations, and science.
Previously, we explored NASA’s objectives for deep exploration and the extensive measures intended to secure human transportation and habitation beyond Earth. These revised points from NASA go even further than that.
The Moon to Mars objectives outlined by NASA are designed to explore more of the Moon than ever before by establishing missions with a long-term presence on the lunar surface. These surface expeditions will allow astronauts to conduct extensive scientific and technological studies and establish a baseline for human life on other worlds.
The primary goal of the Lunar Infrastructure (LI) objectives is to create an “interoperable global lunar utilization infrastructure” in which both robotic and human presence can remain constant, establishing a robust lunar economy that can lead to similar capabilities on Mars.
Objectives specific to planned infrastructure on the Moon include:
- “LI-1L: Develop an incremental lunar power generation and distribution system that is evolvable to support continuous robotic/human operation and is capable of scaling to global power utilization and industrial power levels.
- LI-2L: Develop a lunar surface, orbital, and Moon-to-Earth communications architecture capable of scaling to support long term science, exploration, and industrial needs.
- LI-3L: Develop a lunar position, navigation and timing architecture capable of scaling to support long term science, exploration, and industrial needs.
- LI-4L: Demonstrate advanced manufacturing and autonomous construction capabilities in support of continuous human lunar presence and a robust lunar economy.
- LI-5L: Demonstrate precision landing capabilities in support of continuous human lunar presence and a robust lunar economy.
- LI-6L: Demonstrate local, regional, and global surface transportation and mobility capabilities in support of continuous human lunar presence and a robust lunar economy.
- LI-7L: Demonstrate industrial scale ISRU capabilities in support of continuous human lunar presence and a robust lunar economy.
- LI-8L: Demonstrate technologies supporting cislunar orbital/surface depots, construction and manufacturing maximizing the use of in-situ resources, and support systems needed for continuous human/robotic presence.
- LI-9L: Develop environmental monitoring, situational awareness, and early warning capabilities to support a resilient, continuous human/robotic lunar presence. “
The objectives established for Mars Infrastructure (MI) are dependent to a great extent upon the success and evolution of lunar infrastructure. Once continuous human presence has been based on the lunar surface, Mars infrastructure objectives aim to keep that ball rolling to create essential infrastructure that supports an initial human Mars exploration campaign.
NASA plans to establish a human presence on the Red Planet by implementing and developing the following objectives:
- “MI-1M: Develop Mars surface power sufficient for an initial human Mars exploration campaign.
- MI-2M: Develop Mars surface, orbital, and Mars-to-Earth communications to support an initial human Mars exploration campaign.
- MI-3M: Develop Mars position, navigation and timing capabilities to support an initial human Mars exploration campaign.
- MI-4M: Demonstrate Mars ISRU capabilities to support an initial human exploration campaign.”
To the Moon, Mars and Beyond
As NASA and its international and commercial partners pursue these objectives, we are going to be getting closer to living a sci-fi dream in real-time – while the whole world watches and participates.. With the brightest and most innovative minds at work perfecting the science and technology behind these space exploration objectives, humanity’s greatest exploration aspirations are taking shape on the Moon, then Mars – and then beyond.