As Hollywood’s vision of how astronauts might one day escape from Mars debuts in the new science fiction movie “The Martian,” NASA is moving forward in the real world with studies of concepts for an ascent vehicle to lift humans from the surface of the red planet. Even though human exploration missions are not likely until the 2030s, initial design studies already show that the Mars ascent vehicle (MAV) will be very different from the ascent stage of the Apollo Lunar ...

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