The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to send people to Mars between 2033 and 2043, and currently is working on the technologies that will be needed to take astronauts to the red planet and back.
Future rovers will be used to build an outpost on Mars and help prepare the way for the arrival of humans. "Men on Mars will communicate with orbiters and they'll be working and living on Mars and they'll have rovers helping them," says Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary division. "We're thinking of a rover like Curiosity, in terms of volume, size, and mass, but it'll have a completely different set of instruments."
Scientists are working to improve life-support systems, power sources, navigation, radiation protection, and propulsion, says NASA's Prasun Desai. He also notes that NASA is considering using three-dimensional (3D) printing to build tools and spare parts in deep space.
Desai says 3D printers also might be used to manufacture food that astronauts could eat instead of freeze-dried meals.
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