The Red Planet has interested mankind when Mars was seen as a small dot in the sky in the earlier days. Humans chose to explore Mars as it was the planet which was closest to Earth. The primary reason why the planet was named as Mars was because it appeared as a small red dot in the sky and hence named after the Roman God of War. Mars has solid ground which most of the other planets don’t have. Mars has a magnetic field which is useful in deflecting gamma rays from the sun and prevents them from reaching the planet. Mars has frozen water in the form of glaciers. All these reasons made man to explore Mars as most of the characteristics resemble the earth.
As of now, three space agencies are competing hard to be the first to Mars. In early 1960’s to 1970’s NASA sent several spacecraft to get pictures of Mars. All of these spacecrafts were of unmanned type. So far 36 unmanned spacecrafts had been sent by various space agencies. They considered sending unmanned spacecrafts as their first step of success. But the sad thing is that most of the unmanned spacecrafts never returned back to earth although they sent back the pictures of Mars. The European Space Agency has planned a mission named “2011 – 2014 Mars Sample Return Mission”. It mainly focuses on taking a sample (1/2 kg) of Martian rocks and return back to earth so that geologists could analyze on the rocks. They consider it as their second step towards Mission to Mars. Also plans for collecting Martian air, dust and frozen liquid is under progress.
Russia is trying to compete with America in the space race by planning to launch a manned spacecraft to Mars though they have failed several times in the earlier missions. Various research studies revealed that 2018 will be the best year to explore Mars considering the solar activity and planetary orbits. Russia has decided to launch a spaceship which will carry people to Mars on May 8, 2018. But NASA and the European Space Agency treat it as a big risk to send people to Mars because they feel that they still have more time to explore before they send people in spaceship. The technology in 2018 will give you the answer for the question of whether Russia will be able to make it to Mars with a manned spaceship. To study the effects of gamma rays on human, NASA and the European Space Agency have begun conducting experiments on moon to study the effects.
Cost factor adds difficulty to the mission because building a manned spaceship weighing 600 tons makes it to be built in space as propelling such a large spaceship is not possible with our current rocket power. NASA estimates that their Mars mission program will cost 388 billion dollars. Although several arguments prevail on the necessity to explore Mars, scientists believe that it would save mankind in case a major catastrophic event destroys the earth.
There had been also plans for cost cutting and make it slimmer through a mission named “The Mars Direct Plan”. They propose new ideas to make the spaceship smaller by cutting down the supplies and limiting the number of things to be taken. Medical experts believe that a manned mission to Mars should not be conducted unless we study about the effects of cosmic rays on human as cosmic rays are prevalent in the outer space.
Even though reaching Mars in the near future, with current technology, would be dangerous and expensive, it would a possibility. NASA and other space agencies are not sure of taking a risk and sending people to Mars. However, the answer to the question of when will man land on mars lies entirely on the technological growth and the cost of the mission. If a technology enables manned mission to mars at an affordable cost with safety, then that will be the day of man’s footprint on Mars.