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Newman: Getting Humans to Mars Requires Global, Collaborative Effort

Posted: 10 January 2017, 6:30 p.m. EST

Speaker: Dava Newman, deputy administrator, NASA

by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor

Realizing the goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s requires continuous funding and dedicated research leading to further technological advancements, Dava Newman said Jan. 10 at the 2017 AIAA SciTech Forum in Grapevine, Texas.

During the "Innovation to Enable NASA's Journey to Mars" plenary, Newman said although NASA and the U.S. may lead the effort, private industry and international partner contributions are also vital.

Newman, NASA's deputy administrator, explained that NASA's plan has three phases. The first consists of using the International Space Station to test the technologies needed for sending a manned mission to Mars. The second phase is the proving ground in cislunar space, or the space between Earth and the moon. Newman said NASA will spend the 2020s investing in the necessary — but in many cases undeveloped — technologies needed to succeed in a human deep space mission to Mars.  

She said phase two will consist of "learning how to live and work in deep space."

The third phase involves sending humans to orbit Mars in the early 2030s. Newman explained that the eventual human Mars mission will last three and a half years — including 600 days spent on the surface of the planet — so NASA is working on developing the needed life systems to allow astronauts to survive long durations in deep space. 

The goal, she said, is to reduce "human physiology risks."

Newman provided a snapshot of some of the technologies that NASA is working to test or prove aboard the ISS, including advancements in refueling, habitation structures, next-generation solar arrays, in-space manufacturing, extravehicular activities systems, humanoid robotics and fire safety.

She said humans and robots are already working together at the ISS.

"Every day, every night, the robots are placing [items] and doing work," she said, noting there is a "synergy between humans and robots" at the ISS.

Touching upon all the world's efforts to date to send rovers to Mars, Newman mentioned the former Soviet Union, the U.S., Russia, Japan, the European Space Agency and India as all having attempted to send a rover to Mars.

"It's really hard," Newman said of the task.

Although the U.S. and NASA are leading the efforts now, Newman said NASA is working seamlessly with other agencies — such as NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey — and with international partners and that the point really is global exploration.

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