With the Moon firmly in our rear view mirror as a species, in recent years Mars has become the new focus of manned missions into space. However, there are a number of unpredictable issues associated with putting humans on Mars even for a brief visit. In hopes of further uncovering some of those challenges, scientists at the Imperial College London have teamed up with the BBC to produce a concept mission to the Red Planet.
The mission would include three astronauts riding aboard a two-part spacecraft to Mars on a nine-month journey. Based on the concept mission plan, a large cruiser ship would travel to Mars and then release a smaller landing ship from a tether. After finishing their on-planet mission, astronauts would then board a pre-sent spacecraft, fueled using ice from under the surface of Mars, to travel back to the main cruiser spacecraft and then return to Earth.
As for the length of time spent on the planet's surface, the research team says that would depend on optimum launch windows back to Earth, a factor that could make the visit as short as two months or as long as two years. To lay out the details of the mission, the BBC has launched an interactive site that includes a wealth of detailed information about the spacecrafts that would be used, safety concerns involved, and the mission's scientific logistics.
Highlighting the importance of sending humans into space rather than continuing to rely on remotely controlled robots, the team's geologist Mark Sephton said:
"Some people think that the use of humans is just something that is popular and attractive from an adventure and inspirational point of view, but there are also real scientific benefits for sending humans… Humans can data process while they're walking around, while they're looking at rocks. They're probably the most sophisticated computer, the most sophisticated robotic living organism that we can imagine."
You can take a look at a computer animation of the concept mission in the video embedded below.