NASA’s Journey to Mars is a definite work in progress. However, according to the space agency revealed one detail during a presentation with the space agency's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. The various expeditions that will be sent to Mars will land in one spot on the Red Planet, creating from the beginning a human tended Mars Outpost. This approach contrasts with the one pursued during the Apollo missions to the moon, which sent expeditions to a number of scattered landing zones clustered in the equatorial zone on the lunar near side that faces the Earth.

Barring the creation of exotic propulsion technologies such as a nuclear thermal rocket, NASA would be able to send a crew to Mars every 26 months when Mars and Earth are aligned properly.

The duration of the round trip varies, but typically a Mars expedition would take nine months to get there, 500 or so days on the Martian surface, then another nine months to return home.

The advantage of selecting one landing site is that the Mars Outpost can gradually be built up with every expedition, The Mars rover which the astronauts would use to travel over the Martian surface would look more like an RV than the golf cart vehicle that the later Apollo astronauts used to explore the moon. The Mars rover would have a range of several days or several weeks travel time, expanding the territory that the astronauts can explore.

The disadvantage of the NASA approach is that the space agency has to select a landing site that is as close to as many interesting parts of Mars to explore as possible.

Top Videos of the Day

Not everything will be in range, at least at the very beginning. To be sure, as the Mars program progresses into the middle of this century, vehicles that will expand the range of the astronauts will be sent to the outpost.

Of course, on NASA’s current schedule, Mars is still 20 to 25 years away from the very first footsteps. A permanent Mars settlement is much farther away than that, according to the space agency. But everything is subject to change due to shifting politics and possible advances in technology.