- NASA is eyeing the 2030s for the first crewed mission to Mars
- Now, scientist propose astronauts do a fly by of Venus along the way
- Astronauts could use Venus's gravity to slingshot the craft towards Mars
- This would reduce fuel usage and decrease the time it takes to reach Mars
Scientists suggest that the only way humans will get to Mars is by going to Venus.
The team believes Venus's gravity could be used as a 'slingshot' to whip the spacecraft towards the Red Planet, greatly reducing time and fuel.
Doing a flyby of the planet would also allow astronauts to explore two different Martian terrains during a single mission and possibly provide double the discoveries in one shot.
NASA is eyeing the first crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s – and officials say the mission could launch as early as 2035.
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Putting humans on Mars has been a goal since the 1950s, when aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun wrote the first detailed technical study for a mission to the planet.
And now, the document will soon become a reality as NASA is gearing up to put boots on the Red Planet.Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, North Carolina State University and NASA are proposing a slight tweak to the journey.
'There is reason to be excited by this 'two planets for the price of one-plus' approach,' the study published in arxiv reads.
'A dedicated year-long Venus flyby mission could serve as a valuable 'shakedown cruise' for the deep-space transport systems needed for the first human mission to Mars.'
Using Venus as a pit stop provides a number of benefits to missions to Mars.
Astronauts could use the planet's gravity as a slingshot to whip the spacecraft towards the Red Planet, which will also save time on the long voyage.
Researchers also note that Venus could be a safety net if problems arise on the trip, as it is closer to Earth and would allow them to return home faster.
'Venus flybys directly enable shorter, less expensive crewed missions to Mars—and, as preparation, humanity's first planetary mission beyond the Earth–Moon system could feature a one-year flyby exploration mission of Venus,' reads the study.
'Not only would such a mission provide exploration and science opportunities at and on Venus, but would also serve as valuable deep space practice for the first humans-to-Mars mission, on a more rapid cadence than an Earth– Mars flyby can be accomplished.'
The crew could deploy rovers on Venus and control them using a virtual reality headset and joystick to gear up for exploration on Mars.
'Without such a presence, those controlling drones have to contend with the time delay as messages travel between Earth and Venus, which can take anywhere from five to 28 minutes,' shares the scientists.
The team notes the most beneficial reason for taking advantage of Venus - the window of opportunity would be greatly reduced.
Earth and Mars only ever align for space travel every 26 months, which means astronauts on such a craft would have to spend more than a year on or near Mars.
With opposition missions, the window is reduced to just 19 months.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT VENUS' ATMOSPHERE?
Venus' atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulphuric acid droplets.
The thick atmosphere traps the sun's heat, resulting in surface temperatures higher than 470°C (880°F).
The atmosphere has many layers with different temperatures.
At the level where the clouds are, about 30 miles (50 km) up from the surface, it's about the same temperature as on the surface of the Earth.
As Venus moves forward in its solar orbit while slowly rotating backwards on its axis, the top level of clouds zips around the planet every four Earth days.
They are driven by hurricane-force winds travelling at about 224 miles (360 km) per hour.
Atmospheric lightning bursts light up these quick-moving clouds.
Speeds within the clouds decrease with cloud height, and at the surface are estimated to be just a few miles (km) per hour.
On the ground, it would look like a very hazy, overcast day on Earth and the atmosphere is so heavy it would feel like you were one mile (1.6km) deep underwater.