NASA just announced a plan to send a human to Mars really soon

NASA has their eyes on Mars, and they just released a plan on how they are going send a human to Mars by the 2030s. Yup, in less than two decades a man (or woman) could be walking the red planet. Right now, the six volunteers who signed on to possibly go on a one-way trip to Mars are living out a mock version of their mission in Hawaii, while NASA is working on a multi-stage process that will eventually get them there.

The roadmap laid out by NASA last week involves three phases, each of which bring us one step closer to Mars. It’s part of a much larger series of decisions and steps that will have to take place before Mars is visited. Things like extending the International Space Station operation are currently being undertaken, while steps like designing the habitats for humans on Mars will have to wait up to a decade.

Right now, the three stages are pretty broad, as one would expect from a major mission to Mars that’s still at least a decade off. It all starts with Earth Reliant, a research phase conducted on the International Space Station. According to NASA, at this phase, ” we are testing technologies and advancing human health and performance research that will enable deep space, long duration missions.”

Then it’s on to Proving Ground, operations in deep space that will let NASA work on their capabilities in those environments. Research will also be aimed at finding ways to make travel back to Earth faster — possibly just a couple days! That would make it much more realistic for people to one day (one very far off day) live and work on Mars without forever leaving Earth.

The final stage at this point is Earth Independent, and that’s when we actually get to Mars. Earth Independent will ” build on what we learn on the space station and in deep space to enable human missions to the Mars vicinity, possibly to low-Mars orbit or one of the Martian moons, and eventually the Martian surface.”

A lot can change in the coming years as NASA learns more about Mars and what it will take to get there. But this framework establishes a plan to move forward, and out into deep space. Every day we’re getting closer to actually visiting Mars, and that’s nothing short of incredible.

(Images via NASA, 20th Century Fox)