Ever since the Apollo project at NASA had been completed, scientists and engineers have been seeking support for a Mars program which would first provide manned space travel to Mars from Earth; and subsequently even provide living quarters on the planet Mars. It has been projected that these living quarters be constructed similar to domes to allow for the greatest amount of space in relation to the most economical use of building materials. Since Mars is devoid of living creatures, plants for the domed living spaces would have to be brought to Mars for the sake of the atmosphere and also to grow fruits and vegetables. When a project came to the table of NASA in the late 1990’s called Mars Direct; it was proposed that a craft launched from Earth could fly directly to Mars; since the return fuel (back to Earth) could be derive from the atmosphere of Mars. This project would circumvent the use of the International Space Station and other conventional avenues that NASA wished to follow. NASA had already submitted a plan to Congress requesting $450 billion to obtain a Mars program. Neither program came to being unfortunately.
The asteroid belt near Mars is thought to include meteors rich in silicon minerals and more precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum. However, the miners would probably have to live inside the asteroid belt to protect themselves from Jupiter and the Sun. Another alternative would be to use robotics to perform the mining of the precious metals. In the mean time , NASA is designing new Rovers like the ones’ they had designed for navigating the moon in the lunar landing missions. All in all, the attitude is upbeat with the recent successes of the International Space Station and everyone is hoping that a manned mission to Mars is in the future of NASA within the next couple of decades or so.