NASA has chalked out a new campaign to send humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars within the next two decades.
The federal space agency recently submitted the National Space Exploration Campaign to Congress to ramp up its plans for future human space explorations.
To the Moon
The campaign has five strategic goals that include two ambitious upcoming missions. First, to “return US astronauts to the surface of the Moon.” Second, to “demonstrate the capabilities required for human missions to Mars and other destinations.”
According to NASA, it is building a plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the lunar surface no later than the late 2020s.
“This will be the first chance for the majority of people alive today to witness a Moon landing – a moment when, in awe and wonder, the world holds its breath,” NASA said on its website.
The lunar surface will serve more like a training ground and test site for astronauts to prepare for future human missions to Mars and beyond.
NASA said that it would collaborate with commercial and international partners for robotic lunar missions starting as early as 2020.
By the late 2020s, a lunar lander will begin trips to the surface of the Moon to transport crews and cargo.
On to Mars
Missions to Mars following the lunar operations are currently planned for the 2030s. The space agency said that its next rover to the red planet is scheduled to launch in July 2020.
NASA will use the new Mars rover as a building block for a subsequent roundtrip robotic mission, which will eventually lead to series of crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s.
All of these plans primarily rely on the success of a key component called Gateway, which is “a lunar orbiting platform to host astronauts farther from Earth than ever before.”
On the Gateway, astronauts will prepare to transit deep space, testing new technologies and systems. It will also help NASA study the effects of the deep space environment, learning how living organisms react to the radiation and microgravity over long periods of time.