How will landing on Mars work?

By: Jessika Toothman

Mars Landing: Author's Note

Jessika Toothman, Staff Writer
Jessika Toothman, Staff Writer
HowStuffWorks 2009

It makes me sad that in the time since I wrote this article, the Shuttle Program has ended and the Constellation Program has been cancelled. Public and private space exploration is a constantly shifting field of diverse international players, but it's my hope that others will pick the mantle of taking us back to the moon and on to Mars.

I loved writing this article, and reading Robert Zubrin's book in particular. Many people have proposed ways we could conduct manned interplanetary missions, but Zubrin's strategy seemed to me the most elegant and practical. His plan involves using the resources of the Red Planet to fuel a sequence of manned and unmanned missions to build an infrastructure that would allow us to truly explore our celestial neighbor firsthand, while at the same time creating a redundancy in case any equipment or spacecraft malfunctioned.



  • Aldridge, E.C. et al. "A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover." Report of the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. 6/2004. (May 13, 2008)
  • Bell, Jim. "Space for Both? Human vs. Robotic Space Missions." Scientific American Science Talk Podcast. 7/18/2007. (May 13, 2008) 99DF-3D14CB5FAD1A7A66
  • British National Space Centre. "Aurora: Exploring the Moon, Mars and beyond." (May 13, 2008)
  • Christian, John et al. "Sizing of an Entry, Decent, and Landing System for Human Mars Exploration." Space 2006 Proceedings. 2006. (May 13, 2008)
  • Connolly, John. "Constellation Program Overview." Constellation Program Overview. 10/2006. (May 13, 2008)
  • "Constellation: NASA's New Space Craft: Ares and Orion." (May 13, 2008)
  • "Constellation Program: America's Spacecraft for a New Generation of Explorers." (May 13, 2008)
  • Landis, Geoffrey. "Teleoperation from Mars orbit: A proposal for human exploration." Acta Astronautica. 1/2008. (May 13, 2008)
  • "Mars: Extreme Planet." NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 3/22/2006. (May 13, 2008)
  • "Mars (planet)." Encyclopaedia Brittanica. (May 13, 2008)
  • "Mars Sample Return: The Next Step in Exploring the Red Planet." Mars Daily. 7/3/2008. (May 13, 2008) Exploring_The_Red_Planet_999.html
  • McCulloch, Marie. "Human life on Mars?" 8/7/2007. (May 13, 2008) 34740.html
  • Moomaw, Bruce. "Mars Invades Earth." Terra Daily. 6/4/2001. (May 13, 2008)
  • Squyres, Steven W. "Mars." World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. May 13, 2008)
  • United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies." 1/2008. (May 13, 2008)
  • Wells, Grant et al. "Entry, Descent, and Landing Challenges of Human Mars Exploration." American Astronautical Society. 2/2006. (May 13, 2008) 2006-072.pdf
  • York, Stephen. "Engine Placement for Manned Descent at Mars Considering Single Engine Failures." Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 8/25/2006. (May 13, 2008)
  • ­­Zubrin, Robert. "The Case for Mars." Touchstone. 1996. (May 13, 2008)