Hoppy Price from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and colleagues have prepared a mission architecture that gets astronauts to Phobos by 2033 then down to Mars by 2039, Space.com reported.

According to the step-wise approach, astronauts will first establish a base on Phobos, a 16-km-long moon that orbits 6,000 km away from the Martian surface. This effort would require four launches of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) -- the largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built and set to launch the unmanned Orion spacecraft in 2018.

The first SLS launch in 2029 will take the astronauts to the Mars orbit in just less than four years. A second SLS lift off would carry the Phobos base which could support a crew of four. The third SLS launch around 2032 would carry a deep-space habitat to the Earth's orbit.

The last SLS lift off would then send NASA's Orion capsule and a crew of four up to meet this pre-placed gear. It will help take the astronauts to the Mars orbit in a journey lasting 200 to 250 days. The astronauts would then head back to Earth and the Phobos habitat would remain on the Martian moon, awaiting possible use by future crews, the report added.


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