Humans always have the idea of transporting and studying into the deepest parts of space. They keep on searching for planets that can be or might be inhabited by humans. In 1969, we achieved the first human landing on the moon which surprised the world for this accomplishment. 

However, the moon is just a close satellite of the Earth. NASA wanted to do more and reach more places that could be occupied for research, documentation, and habitation. The two closest planets to Earth are Venus and Mars so it’s no surprise that international space agencies like NASA and even private firm SpaceX, plan to send humans to the Red Planet. 

But why Mars? First, it is the planet nearest to Earth that can possibly have life. Spacecraft photos show that there are canals that are changing as time passes. This has given scientists the idea that there may be ‘people’ or other residents on this planet. Secondly, Mars may be a big help concerning our planet’s past. It will also be a good place to colonize in the future. NASA has already sent robots and space crafts for research, but they want to see people exploring Mars.

SpaceX and NASA have always been planning on going to Mars, but there’s a better way to do it, the founder of the Mars Society said. In a discussion at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held last month, Robert Zubrin opened up the case for his long-planned “Mars Direct.” He said that Mars Direct is better than the current architecture and plans of SpaceX and NASA. The idea was first proposed in the late 1980s and discussed again in the early 1990s.

The outline of Mars Direct is simple. In the first year of implementation, an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) is sent to Mars, getting in six months later.  Upon the surface landing, a rover is deployed that holds the nuclear reactors essential to produce rocket fuel for the return trip.  After 13 months, a fully-fueled ERV will be occupying on Mars’ surface. 

During the next launch window, 26 months after the ERV was sent, two more craft will be sent up: A second ERV called the astronauts’ ship.  This time the ERV will be sent on a low-power trajectory, designed to appear on Mars after eight months – so that it can land at the same site as the second ERV if the first ERV experiences any trouble.  Assuming that the first ERV performs as planned, the second ERV is expected to land at a different place, thus opening up another area of Mars for exploration by the next group.

With this in mind, Zubrin shared how Mars direct can actually be incorporated for both SpaceX and NASA missions. The scientist believes that SpaceX CEO is wrong in its vision to use Starship. 

"In short, this is the wrong way to use a Starship. Starship could be used as a fully reusable Earth to LEO [low Earth orbit] heavy-lift vehicle," he said, reiterating that payloads could stage off Starship as a way to head to Mars.

His proposal is to use a much-smaller Starship which can do the same capabilities as the large one, citing that this is a good way to reduce the fuel requirements. "So, rather than being a 120-ton-to-orbit kind of vehicle, it's a 20-ton-to-orbit vehicle," he said. 

He then went on to suggest that NASA could work hand in hand with SpaceX by building a Mars lander since Musk seems to be focusing on his Starships. 

Layers in Mars' Danielson Crater This image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft shows sedimentary rock and sand within Danielson Crater, an impact crater about 42 miles or 67 kilometers in diameter, located in the southwest Arabia Terra region of Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona