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Mission to Mars: The next frontier in space exploration

Clouds drift above Mars at sunset on April 25, 2019, in this photo taken by NASA's InSight Mars Lander. (NASA)
Clouds drift above Mars at sunset on April 25, 2019, in this photo taken by NASA’s InSight Mars Lander. (NASA)
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Humans have long dreamed of stepping foot on the red planet.

When I was a kid, NASA successfully sent a rover to Mars as part of the Pathfinder mission. That was in 1997, and the little rover, named Sojourner, sent an unprecedented amount of information back to Earth. Among other findings, its data suggested there used to be liquid water on our neighboring planet — a key element needed to sustain life there.

More than 20 years after the Pathfinder mission, we still are learning about Mars and, through both public and commercial efforts, trying to figure out if we can send humans there.

Thanks to a company called SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, humans might be closer than ever to landing on Mars — which, by the way, has an average temperature of -87 degrees Fahrenheit. And you thought Iowa winters were chilly!

SpaceX has developed a vehicle called Starship that was designed to be “the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever,” according to the company’s website. Because it can refuel, SpaceX engineers think the Starship could travel to Mars and all the way back.

In May, SpaceX sent two astronauts into space, the first launch of astronauts from American soil in nine years, according to The Orlando Sentinel. It took 19 hours for the men on board to reach their destination of the International Space Station, which orbits Earth.

Getting to Mars will take much longer, at least a few months. SpaceX’s first trip to Mars is scheduled for 2022. That mission will carry only cargo, with the first humans starting the journey to the red planet in 2024.

If you could, would you sign up to go to Mars?

Comments: molly.duffy@thegazette.com

KIDSGAZETTE ARTICLES

10:15AM | Mon, October 19, 2020

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