Travelling to Mars – How and When Will Humans Reach the Red Planet?



The next stop for human exploration is Mars. Humans have been captivated by the Sun’s fourth planet for ages, and we can now visit it. But how and when are we going to get there?

It is neither straightforward nor easy to travel to Mars. There are several difficulties and dangers present, including those related to distance, speed, timing, navigation, communication, radiation, and landing. It also calls for cutting-edge tools and skills that are still under development.

Depending on how far apart they are in their orbits, Earth and Mars are at different distances. They can travel up to 55 million kilometres in proximity and 400 million km in distance. 225 million kilometres is about the average distance. As a result, a spacecraft going to Mars would have to traverse a great distance in a short period of time.

A spacecraft’s speed as it approaches Mars is influenced by a variety of elements, including the launch vehicle, trajectory, propulsion system, and the gravitational pull of neighbouring planets. The NASA New Horizons probe, which passed Pluto in 2015 at a speed of around 58,000 kilometres per hour, and the NASA Parker Solar Probe, which passed the Sun in 2018 at a speed of about 343,000 kilometres per hour, are the fastest spacecraft to have reached Mars thus far. For a human mission, which would need more fuel and safety precautions, these speeds are not feasible.

The alignment of Earth and Mars determines when a spacecraft will reach Mars. When Earth and Mars are in opposition, or when they are on opposing sides of the Sun, the best moment to launch a spacecraft to Mars. This occurs once every 26 months and results in a two-month launch window. It will be possible to launch again in October 2042.

The accuracy of the launch, course corrections made along the journey, and entry into the Martian atmosphere all affect how a spacecraft travelling to Mars navigates. The spaceship would need to travel along a precise path to prevent collisions with satellites, comets, asteroids, and other spacecraft. Using thrusters or the gravitational pull of other planets, the spacecraft would also need to change its course multiple times while travelling. The spacecraft would also need to survive entering the fragile and unstable Martian atmosphere.

The spacecraft would need to slow down and safely land using a combination of heat shields, parachutes, rockets, and airbags.

The communication of a spacecraft heading to Mars is affected by the Sun’s interference as well as the distance. The time it takes for signals to travel back and forth depends on how far the spacecraft is from Earth. The shortest and maximum delays are roughly four minutes and 24 minutes, respectively. This makes real-time communication difficult and necessitates sending any commands or messages either in advance or after the fact. The Sun’s position in relation to Earth and Mars also affects communication.

The Sun’s interference interferes with communication for around two weeks while Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the Sun. This implies that any crises or issues must be handled on an autonomous basis by the spacecraft or its crew.

The radiation emitted by a spacecraft heading to Mars depends on how much it is exposed to solar flares and cosmic rays. Solar flares are bursts of radiation that come from the Sun, whereas cosmic rays are high-energy particles that come from outside the solar system. Both types of radiation have the potential to impair the crew’s health as well as the electronics and systems of the spaceship.

To shelter itself and its crew from radiation, the spaceship would need to use shielding materials and equipment.

The staff would also need to keep an eye on their exposure levels and take precautions like taking medicine or working out.
The location, topography, climate, and timing of the descent all affect where a spacecraft going to Mars will land.

Based on factors including scientific interest, resource availability, safety issues, and long-term goals, the landing site location needs to be carefully selected. The landing site’s landscape must be level enough for a comfortable touchdown and varied enough for exploring. The landing site’s weather needs to be suitable for visibility and stability. The landing’s timing must be coordinated with communication windows and orbital dynamics.

According to each of these variables, the journey to Mars will take on average seven months. This is only one way, though; it would take at least 2.5 years to travel both ways. Thus, any human journey to Mars would necessitate a sustained commitment and level of endurance from both.