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2035 A brilliant flash streaks across the orange sky. It looks like a meteor against a beautiful sunset on Earth. Yet it isn’t a meteor. It isn’t sunset. It isn’t even Earth. Te streak comes from a spaceship plowing through the atmosphere of Mars. Inside the spacecraſt, eight crew members


are strapped in their seats. Even with their helmets on, the sound is deafening. Te ship roars toward the surface below. Te crew hears a muffled explosion. A


light flashes on the control panel. “Heat shield away,” the commander says. “Stand by for the parachutes.” Everyone is nervous. Tey know that if the


parachutes don’t open, the ship will smash into the planet’s surface. Tere’s another small explosion. Another


light on the panel comes on. It signals that the chutes have opened. Tey fill with air and tug hard at the falling spacecraſt. Tis slows the ship’s speed. Te sudden change in motion makes some of the astronauts feel queasy. “Firing retro rockets,” says the pilot. Six


small rockets under the spacecraſt ignite. Tis slows the ship even more. Everyone is excited now. Tey look out the windows as the Martian landscape comes into view. Tey can hardly believe it. Aſter a long journey through space, they’re about to be the first humans to land on Mars!


“3...


2...


FIRE!” ...


1


Today Flame and smoke shoot out of the huge rocket engine. Tere’s no rocket yet. For now, it’s just an engine two stories tall. It’s leaning on a metal framework. Te test firing is successful. Tat’s good, because this hunk of hardware is important. It will someday help power a rocket to Mars. Tis isn’t the only rocket that may one day


send people to Mars. Around the world, space agencies and companies have the same goal in mind. Tey want to send humans to Mars. Te problem is how to do it. It’s a big challenge. Aſter all, a trip to the Red Planet isn’t like an easy trip across town. It isn’t even like a trip to the moon. At its closest, Mars is 150 times farther


away from us than our moon. Using the fuel in today’s rockets, it would take about 6 months to reach Mars. Such a long trip through space would present a lot of challenges.


JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2014 13


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