The Mission

President Trump has issued a mandate for NASA to get people on Mars by 2033 on March 21. Not long after, NASA produced a detailed plan on how to achieve this. The plan includes four phases.

At the moment NASA is at Phase 0, conducting tests at the International Space Station. Phase 1 is expected to take place between 2018-2025 and includes the testing and launch of six rockets to carry the parts to construct a new space station, the Deep Space Gateway. During Phase 2 the Deep Space Transport tube will be launched to the lunar station where astronauts will spend approximately two years conducting research.

Phase 3 that will start in 2030 includes the resupply of the Deep Space transport tube and Phase 4 that will start in 2033 is the actual trip to Mars.

The significance

This will be a difficult, costly and dangerous mission and NASA has set many scientific goals for it. However, all of the humanity concentrates on one aspect. To get a definite answer to the centuries-old debate whether life once existed or still EXISTS ON THE Red Planet. Of course, no one is expecting to find “little green men” on Mars but rather microbial, primitive extremophile organisms that flourish under harsh environmental conditions like those on Mars. Such organisms exist on Earth and this makes scientists very hopeful to find them on Mars too.

It is believed that the Red Planet once had a magnetic field similar to Earth’s, an atmosphere and even liquid water. At some point in its history, Mars lost its magnetic field and with it's atmosphere and liquid water. These are necessary in order to sustain life. Thus, the question is whether life managed to form before the loss of the magnetic field and whether extremophile life still exists there.

The significance of finding proof that life once existed or still exists on the Red Planet is that we would understand that our Universe is a “fertile” place where the evolution of life is not a unique event that occurred only once on a small blue planet called Earth. It will give hope to humanity that one day we may be able to locate an Earth-like planet where conditions are suitable for colonisation by humanity.

Colonisation of Mars

At this moment, no one can say with certainty whether life once existed or still exists on the Red Planet. However, the only thing that can be said with certainty is that at one point in the future, life will exist on the Red planet. These will be humans. With the advances in science and technology, some day humanity will be able to colonise Mars and achieve a centuries-old dream. Then Mars can be used as a station for further space exploration in search for Earth-like planets. However, humanity first needs to get there in order for this dream to have any chance to be fulfilled.

Good luck and best wishes for success to NASA on this extremely important mission!