How will landing on Mars work?

By: Jessika Toothman

Mars Landing: Cheat Sheet

Stuff you need to know:

  • Traveling to Mars will be a feat, as will exploring the surface and returning home. But planning how astronauts will actually land, a seemingly simple step for this momentous mission, will actually pose a number of challenges in and of itself.
  • A thin, variable atmosphere is one of the main complications when it comes to landing on Mars. The spacecraft carrying astronauts would probably be significantly heavier than the various rovers that have landed on the Martian terrain to date, so slowing them down successfully will be an issue.
  • Many different configurations of vehicle designs, mission plans and strategic tactics have been tossed around and debated, but as of 2011, nothing has been finalized.
  • One interesting idea is to land unmanned craft in sequence with manned craft, to begin building an infrastructure. The first unmanned vehicle to land would use surplus hydrogen to stimulate chemical processes with the Martian atmosphere to generate fuel and water and oxygen for the astronauts to access when they arrive next.
  • The timelines, participants and costs associated with sending mankind to Mars are constantly evolving.

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