A NASA aerospace scientist today opined that a human mission to Mars was likely to materialise anytime in five to 15 years from now.
“The human mission to Mars is feasible and doable and its only a matter of time. In my view, if budget and technology are not a problem, then it would happen anytime in five to 15 years. All we need is the willingness,” Anita Sengupta of Jet Propulsion Laboratory told a group of journalists here.
Sengupta had an important role to play in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration team which landed car sized robotic rover ‘Curiosity,’ on Mars on August 5, 2012 to explore Gale crater, after a little over an eight month travel since its launch in November 2011.
Asked about the functions of Curiosity, she said, “It is doing very well. Its final destination is to reach Mount Sharp in Mars.”
An expert in Entry, Descend and Landing (EDL) of the mission, her team designed the special parachute, which soft landed the heavy ‘Curiosity,’ which had travelled in Martian atmosphere and gravity, very different from Earth.
On whether a similar exercise would suffice for a human mission to Mars, she said, “Well, technically it will mostly be the same, but we need a larger version for it. We need hypersonic and supersonic aerodynamic simulation.” Sengupta presently works with the Cold Atom Laboratory Mission, an ultra-cold quantum gas experiment to be launched to the International Space Station in 2016.
In her ongoing project, she and her team intend to study the coldest spot of the universe and also the state of matter called ‘Bose-Einstein Condensate,’ named after the great scientists Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose.
“The idea is to create a lab floating in the space, in which we will be doing tests sitting here through remote control,” she explained.
“We are working towards the target of April 2016,” said Sengupta, who was in the city as part of her outreach to inspire school and college students in the field of space.