"The Martian," a film about a man left behind on Mars, is arriving in theatres next month. Although this is pure fiction, the real deal is not that far away.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just confirmed that it is working to send a manned mission to the Red Planet about 15 years from now. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, said the space agency can possibly get astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
"We are farther down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA's history," Bolden said Thursday last week during an event at the NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C.
"We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we'll get there," he added.
For the past years, NASA has been undertaking efforts to make the first manned mission to Mars possible, including the development of a capsule called Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket.
NASA will conduct an unmanned test flight for the SLS, which helps astronauts get to deep-space destinations, and the Orion in 2018.
NASA has also been experimenting on ways to grow vegetation away from Earth. Recently, astronauts successfully grew and ate lettuce on the International Space Station (ISS).
Two NASA crew members on the ISS are also halfway through a mission meant to simulate the effects of long space flights on the body and the mind. This will help in planning the manned mission to Mars, which may take 500 days or more.
NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, meanwhile, said the space agency is also undertaking the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), which can turn carbon dioxide abundant in Mars to pure oxygen and carbon monoxide.
"We're going to make oxygen on another planet — the first time ever to make oxygen on another planet. These experiments — they're real, they're here," Newman said.