Here is NASA’s three-step plan for getting humans to Mars – Chicago Tribune

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You might not have noticed, but NASA is pretty excited about Mars. Things have been ramping up lately, what with the convenient pop culture tie-in of the film “The Martian,” and NASA has been flooding the Interwebs with optimistic #JourneytoMars speculation.

Now the agency has released a plan detailing its next steps. The plan can pretty much be broken down into three phases:

The stuff we’re doing right now, on (and around) Earth

This year is actually pretty important for Mars exploration – but not because of anything directly related to Mars. Right now, there are two astronauts about halfway through a year-long mission on the International Space Station. They won’t break spaceflight records – Russian cosmonauts shattered the one-year mark several times back in the 1980s and ’90s – but this is the first time that scientists will be closely monitoring astronauts undertaking such a long flight.

And even better, one of the astronauts involved has a twin. That means that scientists can study how their bodies change and remain the same during the year that one is on the ground and one is hurtling around the Earth.

This data will help scientists understand how long-term spaceflight affects the human body. That’s important, because NASA has estimated that a trip to Mars would take about six months each way. NASA is calling this the “Earth Reliant” phase of our journey to Mars.
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