NASA plans joint robot and astronaut Mars missions

562599main pia14175 43 946 710 NASA plans joint robot and astronaut Mars missions

NASA is planning to put humans back into its space missions, with a preliminary report detailing how it will use astronauts to aid the robotic exploration of Mars, and eventually lead to landing a man or woman on the red planet.

NASA is planning to put humans back into its space missions, with a preliminary report detailing how it will use astronauts to aid the robotic exploration of Mars, and eventually lead to landing a man or woman on the red planet.

 
While NASA has sent multiple robots to Mars, including the latest Curiosity rover, it wants to get one of those robots to collect rocks and soil, which can then be sent back to Earth for examination, the results of which could help us determine the habitability of the planet.
 
The problem is not getting a robot to Mars, but getting its payload of collectibles back to Earth. This is where the trusty astronaut comes in, travelling halfway between Earth and Mars in a new spacecraft, where the robots will deliver their cargo.
 
562599main pia14175 43 946 710 NASA plans joint robot and astronaut Mars missions
 
The meeting halfway is important for a number of reasons, including cost-cutting, safety of astronauts, and prevention of possible contamination of the rock samples by human germs, or worse yet, contamination of humans from alien germs.
 
NASA also plans to land astronauts on Mars by the 2030s, replacing previous plans to visit the Moon by 2020. 
 
Earlier this year a Dutch entrepreneur, Bas Lansdorp, unveiled Mars One, a private manned mission to the red planet by 2023. What makes this one potentially more exciting than NASA's is that the idea is to have a permanent settlement there by that year, with the flights being a “one way trip,” in order to cut costs and ensure that Mars becomes our next home.
 
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech