In what promises to be an exciting prospect, the ESA and NASA have announced that they will be joining forces in their attempts to take astronauts to Mars. The announcement by two of the Earth’s largest space agencies is seen as a step to taking humans outside of the Earth’s orbit for the first time since 1972. That’s right. 1972 witnessed the last of the six landings on the moon by NASA. Ever since then, the furthest from the orbit of the earth that humans have gone is the International Space Station. Although the initial target of the cooperation between ESA and NASA is to take astronauts to the moon, the long-term view is to have manned missions to Mars. These missions would represent huge strides being made in the world of space exploration. Ever since mankind conquered the moon, manned missions to Mars has always been its next target.
What Have the Cooperating Agencies Planned in the Run Up to the Manned Mars Missions?
To begin with, the manned missions to Mars are heavily dependent on the success of the initial phase – a manned spacecraft that will orbit around the moon. This mission is expected to take place by 2021. During this mission to the moon, it is anticipated that the spacecraft will orbit around the moon in three extending orbits. It is then scheduled to return to Earth in what is expected to be the fasted re-entry ever done by a manned mission.
They have further joined hands with Airbus, the aerospace company from France. Airbus is expected to come up with the module that will get initially get astronauts to the moon. The module is supposed to have characteristics similar to Orion, which it has already sent to NASA. It is to be used in unmanned flights. Orion’s unmanned flights will, therefore, form the initial phase with the main aim being the testing of the spacecraft. Once successful, it will be followed by the manned flights to the moon. These flights are expected to have four astronauts, although the final number of astronauts will be arrived at after some other factors are considered. Once these flights are successful, they will be followed by manned Mars missions in the years that will follow. The tentative date for the manned Mars missions is set at around 2025.
ESA and NASA’s Cooperation Shows That Joining Forces is the Way to Go
The spirit of co-operation by space organizations is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is what led to the formation of the International Space Station. Over the years, there has been this realization that it has become increasingly difficult for a single space agency or country to send missions that are manned outside the earth’s orbit. Notwithstanding the fact there have been significant strides in the advancement of aerospace technology, the costs involved in preparing manned missions are prohibitive. The future, therefore, lies in the sharing of the resources and technology that is available. This exchange can only take place where space agencies and countries cooperate with each other. Cooperation, however, has been made difficult by some organizations which remain non-committal to the idea. Chinese and Russian agencies are the most notorious for these. They prefer to undertake space programs on their own.
Most observers will keenly follow the efforts of ESA and NASA with the hope that the agencies manned missions to Mars will materialize.