For non-scientific space enthusiasts—people who love sci-fi and bug out with every new real-life discovery but don’t understand, or even care to understand, basic physics—it can be a bit of a challenge to know what’s happening with Mars and mankind’s general attempt to make that mysterious red planet work in our favor.
To help everyone explain why they love The Martian so much, beyond the fact that it’s Matt Damon making charming quips throughout, NASA recently released a detailed outline of their plan in a report called NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration (which you can and should read, or at least skim, in full, because it’s one of the coolest things on the Internet right now).
In it, even NASA’s most matter-of-fact statements explaining what they, as a government agency, are currently working on read as beautifully inspiring declarations.
There are challenges to pioneering Mars, but we know they are solvable. We are developing the capabilities necessary to get there, land there, and live there.
At a high level, there are essentially three phases to NASA’s journey to Mars.
1) EARTH RELIANT will focus on research aboard the International Space Station about human health and behavior as well as testing technologies.
2) PROVING GROUND gets into deep space operations, exploring long-duration habitation facilities and systems while addressing the need to limit resupplies.
3) EARTH INDEPENDENT will execute actual human missions to Mars that include us “harvesting Martian resources to create fuel, water, oxygen, and building materials.”
Here’s what that looks like as a visual plan.
Read NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration and blow your friends’ minds when you casually explain Block 1, Block 1B, and Block 2 of NASA’s next rocket at a dinner party.