Humans gained the capability to travel to Mars shortly after the first Moon landings took place nearly 50 years ago, according to retired astronaut Chris Hadfield.
In an interview with Business Insider, the former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) was asked whether he thinks Nasa, SpaceX or Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin were capable of sending humans to the red planet within the next decade.
Hadfield, renowned for his rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity while in orbit, responded that humans could have travelled to Mars “decades ago”.
“The technology that took us to the Moon and back when I was just a kid - that technology can take us to Mars,” he told the news site.
Hadfield is right, says Tech Times, which notes that plans to send humans to the red planet were drawn up by scientists including Wernher von Braun, the architect of the Saturn V Moon rocket, as early as 1952.
However, while a manned mission to the planet may have been possible decades ago, the risk to human life was too high, according to Hadfield.
“The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it,” the Canadian spaceman said. “They’d die.”
The immense distance between Earth and Mars poses a number of problems for scientists and astronauts. “Launching shuttles to Mars so far has taken huge lengths of time – anywhere from 128 to 333 days,” says The Sun.
Dangers associated with longer flights include cancer caused by prolonged exposure to “deep-space radiation” and a greater risk of heart disease, the newspaper explains.
Hadfield compares the feat of putting humans on Mars to that undertaken by Portuguese voyager Ferdinand Magellan, who explored the East Indies between 1519 and 1521.
“Magellan, when he launched in 1519, they launched with five ships and 250 people to try and just go around the world once, and almost everybody died,” he said.