Going to the moon is like a stroll to the corner grocery store compared to going to Mars. One-way travel to Mars can take several months, compared to three days when going to the moon, and the launch window comes around only once every two years. Astronauts traveling to Mars are exposed to high radiation levels, cramped living conditions for an extended time, the detrimental health effects of microgravity, and lack of access to advanced medical care in case something goes wrong. And if fictionalized accounts of missions to Mars (and even some real robotic missions) have taught us anything, it's that the chances of something going wrong are high.
Despite the challenges, Earth has had its sights on Mars for centuries. In 1948, NASA rocket guru Wernher von Braun published the first technical analysis of what it would take to go to Mars. Since then, dozens of plans have been put forward, each with a launch date around 20-30 years in the future.
NASA is actively preparing for a Mars mission. The Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System rocket, both still in development and testing, are designed to be able to go to Mars. The current target launch date for a manned Mars mission is around 2035.
Private enterprise, already in the business of sending cargo to the International Space Station, has its own designs on sending humans to Mars. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, says he's working on a blueprint for a Mars mission that would launch in 2025 - a full decade before NASA. He has dropped hints about a methane-powered rocket booster and a crew module called the Mars Colonial Transporter designed to take permanent colonists, not just interloping astronauts, to the Red Planet.
Because of the challenges involved in going to Mars, Musk has repeatedly delayed unveiling his full blueprint and timeline. In January 2015, he promised a reveal by the end of that year, then pushed it to early 2016. Most recently, he's pegged the International Astronautical Congress, taking place September 26-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico, as the venue for showing off his plan for Mars colonization.
Will Elon Musk finally reveal his blueprint for sending humans to Mars at the International Astronautical Congress in September 2016?
For this question to resolve as positive, a credible media outlet or SpaceX corporate statement must report that on or before September 30, 2016, while at the International Astronautical Congress, Elon Musk has presented a detailed plan for sending humans to Mars.