THE SPACE EDUCATORS' HANDBOOK

Human Mission to Mars


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U.S. national space policy calls for expanding human presence and activity beyond Earth orbit into the solar system. To fulfill that policy, the Space Exploration Initiative includes plans to land men and women on Mars. President Bush set a goal for such a landing for the year 2019, but humans may reach Mars much earlier.

On Mars, scientists will be able to learn more about planetary evolution and climate change. Whether life exists on Mars is a major scientific question that cannot be answered until human crews thoroughly search the planet for any signs of life forms. By learning more about Mars, scientists will better understand the evolution of our solar system and the history and nature of the Earth.

The artist's concept shows the landing of the first human mission to Mars in the year 2019. In the foreground, astronauts conduct scientific observations, recording wind speed with an anemometer and planetary features with a hand-held camera. In the background is the giant mountain, Olympus Mons. A dust storm is approaching the cratered area near the landing site. The Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos are visible in the twilight sky. The Mars excursion vehicle in the background serves as crew quarters for the mission. An interplanetary transfer vehicle carried the crew to Mars, with the excursion vehicle launched independently from low Earth orbit to rendezvous with the transfer vehicle in orbit around Mars. The excursion vehicle will return the crew to the transfer vehicle, parked in Mars orbit, for the return trip to Earth. Crews on later missions will construct surface habitats using Martian materials.

For the Classroom


1. How long will it take to travel from Earth to Mars?
2. What difficulties might humans encounter on the long trip to Mars?
3. Why are Phobos and Deimos appropriate names for the moons of Mars?
4. What is the atmosphere of Mars like? How is it similar and dissimilar to the atmosphere of the Earth?
5. What makes Mars appear red? What makes the Earth appear blue from space?
6. Can plants live on Mars? Can humans live on Mars?

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