More than any other time in recent memory, travel to Mars is looking more like a reality. More than any other time in recent memory, travel to Mars is looking more like a reality. More than at any other time in recent memory, travel to Mars is looking like a reality. (Photo: Aphelleon / Shutterstock)

We're going to Mars: NASA reveals detailed plans for interplanetary travel

The journey will be a hot topic this week at an international gathering of space scientists.

You probably don't need to pack just yet, but you might want to make sure your passport is up to date. As it turns out, we've inched one step closer to interplanetary travel.

NASA just unveiled a detailed plan for how to send humans to the Red Planet in a new report entitled “NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration.”

“NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to discuss the details of our plan with members of Congress, as well as our commercial and our international and partners, many of whom will be attending the International Astronautical Congress.”

Bolden is referring to one of the world's largest annual space conferences which kicked off today in Israel. The four-day event, which will host 2,000 scientific demonstrations, is being organized by the Paris-based International Astronautical Federation.

Mars is set to be a hot topic at the event. Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin will be the keynote speaker at the Jerusalem conference and will be speaking about his new mission to colonize Mars.

It's been a busy season for Mars news. NASA recently announced that they discovered liquid water on Mars. "The Martian," starring Matt Damon as a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars, has remained the No. 1 movie in America for the second week in a row, surpassing more than $100 million at the box office. The science-heavy film has even managed to turn the topic of interplanetary botany into water-cooler conversation.

NASA has been particularly willing to jump on board "The Martian" bandwagon. The space agency served as consultants on the film and now, in perhaps a case of the tail wagging the dog, scientists are offering their reviews on the film.

In the meantime, NASA has created a website for the public to track progress of the actual, real-life Mars mission. The journey to the inhospitable planet will require three stages, as described in the infographic below. "Bridging these three categories are the overarching logistical challenges facing crewed missions lasting up to 1,100 days and exploration campaigns that span decades," wrote NASA's Stephanie Schierholz. "The journey to Mars is an historic pioneering endeavor."

An artist’s rendering of the Earth Reliant, Proving Ground and Earth Independent thresholds, showing key parts that will be developed along the way. An artist’s rendering of the Earth Reliant, Proving Ground and Earth Independent thresholds, showing key parts that will be developed along the way. (Photo: NASA)

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