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We’re going to Mars — and we’re going in the not-too-distant future.
NASA says preparations for a manned mission to the Red Planet are proceeding as planned, with humans expected to set foot on Mars in the 2030s.
"We are farther down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA’s history," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at an event last week, according to Space.com. "We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we’ll get there."
That work includes completing the development of the rockets and spacecraft that will get humans there and back again, including the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, which are still being tested.
The next Mars rover, planned for a 2020 launch, will carry the Mars Oxygen ISRU experiment. MOXIE, as its known, will take carbon dioxide out of the thin Martian atmosphere and produce oxygen, the space agency said.
If it can do so successfully, humans will have oxygen to breathe and rockets will be able to use that oxygen to help power the return trip home.
“We’re going to make oxygen on another planet — the first time ever to make oxygen on another planet,” said NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman, according to The Space Reporter. "These experiments — they’re real, they’re here."
Andy Weir, author of "The Martian" which has been made into a film starring Matt Damon, was at the NASA event. He recently said the main barrier is funding — and that given enough money, a manned Mars mission could happen in the 2030s as planned.
"But I don’t have faith in Congress to give them enough money to make that happen, so I’m being a little more conservative," the novelist told Space.com last month, guessing that humans would set foot on the Red Planet by 2050.
"The Martian" goes into wide release on Oct. 2, but the film was given an early screening over the weekend in a very unique location: the International Space Station.
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