We could be living on Mars 'within decades', says Nasa

NASA has said that it plans to have humans living on Mars in the next few decades.

Moving to have "Earth Independent" colonies on the Red Planet will be the end point of years of research, the agency has said, but it plans for that to be complete by the 2030s. Nasa laid out the plans in a large document: "NASA's Journey to Mars - Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration".

That document lays out the three stages of NASA's plan to get to Mars. The first is Earth Reliant, when ; the second is Proving Ground, where the operations will be tested out in deep space, but in an environment that allows humans to get back to Earth in days.

Mars hopes that those two first stages allow it to get to the Earth Independent stage. It will combine those

It sees the Earth Independent colonies as being "a global achievement that marks a transition in humanity's expansion as we go to Mars not just to visit, but to stay".

While there, humans will live and work within habitats that "support human life for years, with only routine maintenance". They'll harvest "Martian resources to create fuel, water, oxygen and building materials" and use "advanced communication systems" to send information back with only a 20-minute delay.

But before it gets to that stage, it will begin in the Earth Reliant one. Research in that stage will be based entirely on the International Space Station, and it will include making sure that equipment works, and learning more about the effects of spending extended periods of time in space - since the eventual Mars missions could see people living on the planet for decades, or potentially never coming back.

It will then take the knowledge learned there to the "Proving Ground" stage. There, the research will go towards practicing for deep-space operations, allowing those in space to conduct work with less and less reliance on the Earth and move towards the journey to Mars.

When humans get to the Earth Independent stage, and actually go on a mission into the Mars orbit one of its moons or Mars itself, they will continue that research.

"NASA and its partners are working on the solutions every day so we can answer some of humanity's fundamental questions about life beyond Earth," the report concludes. "Was Mars home to microbial life? Is it today? Could it be a safe home for humans one day? What can it teach us about life elsewhere in the cosmos or how life began on Earth? What can it teach us about Earth's past, present and future?"

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