To the Moon? Once the crew is picked and the rockets are ready, then what? Not all experts agree on what comes next. Some think the next big step should be setting up a base on Earth’s moon. Astronauts could train there. Tey would learn how to live and work on another world. Tey could practice landing and taking off. Yet some scientists don’t think going to
the moon is a good idea. Tey say the moon isn’t like Mars. For one thing, Mars has an atmosphere. Te moon doesn’t. An atmosphere is the layer of gases that forms around some objects in space. An atmosphere changes how a rocket lands and takes off. So the moon might not be a good place to practice those skills.
One-Way Mission? Some scientists say astronauts should go directly to Mars. Tey’re planning a trip to Mars and back. Tey would send astronauts to Mars for a short visit. Ten the astronauts would return to Earth. At least one group thinks the trip should be
one-way. Tey think the first people who go to Mars should set up a permanent settlement. Because these settlers wouldn’t need to have rockets built to send them home, they could be ready to travel sooner. Some think that a colony could be set up within 10 years. It sounds strange, but this group is already
taking applications for Mars settlers. Who would take such a trip? Tousands of people have already applied.
atmosphere: the layer of gases that forms around an object in space, like a planet
engineer: a person who uses scientific knowledge and rules for practical purposes
invent: to make an original device, system, or process
16 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER
orbit: the path of a planet, moon, or manmade satellite
technology: the use of scientific knowledge in industry
Surviving on Mars Whether the mission is a short visit or a one-way trip, people will need water, air, and food. Tese materials would be too bulky to bring from Earth. Luckily, Mars has plenty of resources. Ice found in the soil could be extracted for drinking and washing. Tis water could then be cleaned and used again and again. Oxygen in the water could be used to make air for the crew to breathe. Te crew could grow food in greenhouses.
Scientists are working on another food source, too. Tey are inventing and improving new 3-D printers to make meals. Te printer mixes powders with water and oil. Ten it sprays the mixture layer by layer on a surface. Te layers harden. Te food is ready to eat. Tis technology already exists for chocolate, cookies, and some other foods. Astronauts would be able to print a full meal in minutes.
Decisions, Decisions Learning about Mars and space travel is ongoing. Scientists have already sent many spacecraſt to Mars. Right now, two rovers called Curiosity and Opportunity are moving across the planet and sending information back to Earth. High above them, three satellites orbit Mars. None of these missions have included
a crew, though. For a project this big, one company or even one nation probably won’t go it alone. Working together, the people of Earth may one day call the Red Planet home.
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