New Delhi: NASA may send a group of astronauts to the moon for a year-long mission in 2027 as part of its plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
The lunar presence would serve as a launching point for the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars, a NASA official was quoted as saying by Space.com on Wednesday.
However, before that year-long lunar mission, there would be at least five missions - four of them crewed, to deliver hardware, such as a crew habitat, Greg Williams of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate said during his presentation at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington DC on May 9.
Williams said the last piece of delivered hardware would be the actual Deep Space Transport vehicle that would later be used to carry a crew to Mars.
"If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back," Williams was quoted as saying.
NASA recently announced that its Mars plan now includes building a "deep-space gateway" around the Moon, Williams said during his presentation.
This deep space gateway would have a power bus, a small habitat to extend crew time, docking capability, an airlock, and serviced by logistics modules to enable research.
The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months.
The year-long crewed mission around the lunar orbit is one of the major future milestones of NASA's current plan.
(With IANS inputs)