A chief scientist working for NASA has confirmed the exact year when the space agency will launch its first crewed expedition to Mars as part of its Artemis program. However, based on the scientist's statement, it seems the space agency is not yet ready to begin space colonization once the new program kicks off.
For the past couple of years, NASA has been discussing the details of the Artemis program. According to the space agency, the first step of the program is launching a new mission to the Moon. The agency then plans to build on the success of this mission with its first human expedition to the Red Planet. NASA noted that the lunar mission might begin sometime in 2024.
Jacob Bleacher, NASA's Chief Exploration Scientist for its Advanced Exploration Systems recently revealed the targeted launch window for the mission to Mars. He made the revelation while he was answering a question submitted via a Reddit Ask Me Anything session, which was hosted by various department heads and officials from NASA.
Through one of the questions, a Reddit user asked if it would be possible for the Artemis program to serve as NASA's stepping stone in establishing a human colony in space. According to Bleacher, although NASA's ultimate goal is to establish a human outpost and colony on the Moon and Mars, it seems the agency is not yet ready to leave its astronauts in space. Bleacher noted that the agency plans to prepare for the possibility of establishing a space colony by gradually increasing the time it spends in space.
"Colonizing implies a one-way trip," Bleacher stated. "On early missions, we plan on sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon for up to seven days per expedition, with a total roundtrip mission from Earth lasting about three weeks. By 2024, we will be ready to send astronauts to the Moon about once per year, and increase our duration in lunar orbit and on the surface as we evolve our capabilities."
Bleacher then revealed that after the launch of the lunar mission in 2024, NASA intends to establish a stable presence on the Moon by 2028. Once this has been achieved, the agency can start focusing on launching a crew mission to Mars, which according to Bleacher could take place in 2038.
"We will establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028, and will be ready to send astronauts to Mars about a decade after that," he explained. "Missions to the Red Planet will be up to three years one-way, but again, we will be returning our astronauts to Earth."