Written by: Dora Grabar

We conquered space in ‘61. We conquered the Moon in ‘69. We conquered living in space in ‘71. When are we going to conquer Mars?

For decades, this question has been in people’s minds. From aliens originating from Mars to humans populating it, the idea of any kind of life being present on the red planet has been a recurring theme in literature, film and more. Matt Damon realistically (to an extent) survived on Mars so surely the reality of humans setting foot on it must be nearby, right?

The answer is yes — NASA plans to send humans there in 2030’s.

Since the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover on November 6, 2011 and its landing on August 6, 2012 humans have learned a lot more about Mars. The landing itself provided information about the ability to land a very large, heavy rover to the surface of Mars necessary for calculations for a future Mars Sample Return mission that would bring rocks and soils to Earth. Most importantly, Mars Science Laboratory serves as an entrée to the next decade of Mars exploration.

In 2020, NASA plants to send astronauts on a yearlong mission into deep space proving ground, verifying habitation and testing their readiness for Mars. Another rover will be launched the same year. A mission with a robotic spacecraft capturing an asteroid builder and using it to take samples from Orion will test both deep space spacewalking and sampling techniques and Solar Electric Propulsion, which they’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars.

Damon’s Mars doesn’t sound so far away now, does it?

Humans have been preparing to conquer Mars for decades and in less than two, we will.