NASA is dead set on sending humans to Mars in the near future and they want you to help them out. Knowing that two heads are always better than one, the space agency kickstarted a new initiative that will allow anyone to contribute with good ideas for the upcoming mission to Mars. Even though you and me might not be able to step on the Red Planet ourselves any time soon that doesn’t mean that we should sit on the sidelines and let NASA have all the fun. No sir-ree Bob. The first manned mission to another planet is humanity’s next milestone in space exploration so it makes sense that NASA would allow the general public to contribute with ideas as to how we should do it. After all, this is something that concerns all of us.
As you might imagine, the space agency already has a plan of action but since this is an extremely ambitious undertaking they pretty much need all the help they can get. What the good people over at NASA are particularly interested in are “ideas, in detail, for developing the elements of space pioneering necessary to establish a continuous human presence on the Red Planet.” That’s right, the Journey to Mars Challenge is about much more than just sending a few people to Mars; in fact, that’s only the beginning. The first people to arrive on the Red Planet will most certainly not be the last because the long-term plan is to build a self-sustaining colony and perhaps even terraform Mars at some point.
It goes without saying that this ambitious plan requires some equally ambitious ideas and that’s where the public can jump in to help. NASA are looking for innovative ideas that can make this plan more technically and economically feasible and are prepared to reward those who submit the best ideas. Aside from glory, fame and eternal gratitude from the rest of humanity, participants can also look forward to a total prize pool of $15,000, which will be split between three very lucky winners. Helping NASA in their effort to send humans to Mars is a reward in and of itself, but the money is definitely a nice bonus and should serve as further incentive for participants.
Participants are asked to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to achieve this goal and, to the greatest extent possible, are technically achievable, economically sustainable, and minimize reliance on support from Earth. NASA expects to make up to three awards at a minimum of $5,000 each from a total award pool of $15,000.
NASA’s efforts for sending humans to Mars is well underway today, with spacecraft monitoring Mars from orbit and rovers on the surface. The International Space Station is testing systems and is being used to learn more about the health impacts of extended space travel. NASA also is testing and developing its next generation of launch and crew vehicles — the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crewed spacecraft.