NASA officially announced they are developing the technology astronauts need for the first mission to the red planet. Sending a rocket to Mars is not NASA’s primary concern. The agency has done this time and time again in the past years. However, NASA faces the problem that astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars will be traveling for nine months and need to be completely self-sustainable.

NASA has invested several decades and billions of dollars to build a strong presence on Mars. Rovers Perseverance and Curiosity, and the small airborne Mars helicopter, actively scout the surface for signs of water, key resources and life. The Insight lander, while struggling to survive an energy crisis caused by dust on its solar panels, continues its weather observations. And three NASA orbiters, Maven, Reconnassaince, and Odyseey, encircle Mars, gathering data for future missions.

Related: NASA Needs Your Help To Feed Astronauts On Mars

For the first time in history, NASA has officially set a human mission to Mars as a priority. The details of its ambitious exploration mission were submitted in the Presidential Budget Request Summary for FY 2023. In the extensive document, the word “Mars” is typed in more than 520 times, almost as much as the word “Moon.” And NASA needs the funds to get it done, $161 million for the Mars Campaign Development and $48 million to develop living quarters technology for humans on a mission to the red planet.

The Fine Print Of The Mars NASA Program

NASA Hera Habitat.

NASA Hera Habitat.

NASA explains that most of the habitat systems needed for a Mars mission will be tested in low-earth orbit in the International Space Station and during the Artemis Moon mission. The Mars program includes the development of habitational systems that include life support, environmental monitoring, radiation protection, fire safety, and crew health management. NASA also has to figure out how to manage stowage, waste, clothing and make sure astronauts have the tools they need to carry out their mission.

Recently, two new carbon dioxide scrubbers were installed on the ISS. If the CO2 scrubbers pass the performance test, they could be installed on the spacecraft to Mars. Another system called XROOTS will investigate hydroponic crop systems that could provide nutritious food for astronauts on the long haul. Finally, to keep astronauts in top shape, NASA is developing the E4D, a multi-purpose exercise machine.

Things are also progressing at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. NASA will initiate operations at CHAPEA, an advanced Mars simulation habitat. Four astronauts will be confined to the habitat for 387 days. They will perform a simulated extravehicular activity (EVA) submerged in a virtual reality that looks like a Mars landscape. Mars has always been a distant obsession in the back of NASA’s mind. But now, the space agency is ready to move ahead. They have set a fixed target to take humanity to Mars, and work has already started.