Mars could be visited by humans in the year 2039 if NASA is able to carry out a mission on a schedule recently announced by the space agency. The announcement was made during the Humans to Mars Summit held on May 5.

Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, is asking the public for assistance in placing people on Mars for the first time in history. The organization is also offering $15,000 in prize money for people who best detail the needs of such a crew. A total of three cash awards will be distributed among the trio of winners.

A Mars colony would not only need to protect the lives of space travelers, but would also need to be constructed with viable technology, from readily accessible materials. However, the space agency is stressing it wants solutions which include technology that could be developed within the next two decades before flight.

"We're not going to get humans to Mars until at least the mid-2030s, and the world is going to change by then. So how do we make sure that the path we're choosing has enough flexibility, so that as technology develops we can adapt what we're doing? That way, if someone figures out how to do something much better, you can adapt without starting from square one or making costs go way up," said NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan.

President Barack Obama directed NASA to place humans on Mars sometime during the 2030s. One of the challenges to meeting this goal will be the 500-day delay between launch opportunities for resupply missions to Mars. Due to the orbits of the two worlds, flights at other times use large amounts of fuel, adding to launch weights and costs.

"Submissions may consist of proposed approaches, capabilities, systems or a set of integrated systems that enable or enhance a sustained human presence on Mars. Solutions should include the assumptions, analysis, and data that justify their value. Submissions should include a process to develop, test, implement, and operate the system or capability," NASA officials announced.

In recent years, NASA has worked integrally with significant private space development companies to help deliver goods, and soon people, into space.

Several highly successful robotic craft have been in, on and around Mars, returning loads of valuable data on the Red Planet. In 2016, the ESA's ExoMars (exobiology on Mars) program's trace gas orbiter will launch from Earth, followed by the latest rover two years later. The trace gas orbiter is a joint operation of the European Space Agency and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. It is expected to investigate for a minimum of one Martian year, or 687 Earth days.

NASA Challenge: Space Pioneering - Achieving Earth Independence requires written submissions, so entrants will not need to build a prototype of their proposed system. Entries are due July 6.

Armchair scientists who wish to enter the contest may do so on NASA's official page for the event. Within four days of the challenge being posted, 2,252 people already signed on to help figure out the challenges of "pioneering space."

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