Future human missions to Mars would also have to contend with the debris problem. One possible method is to dispense with parachutes altogether and use a "fully propulsive" method to land on Mars, similarly to how the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.
"This fully propulsive option has been studied for Mars by NASA and others,” Paton noted. “It has some significant benefits as the crew probably would experience very gentle g-levels. This would be beneficial if the crew are required to get to work, setting up the base, soon after they have landed.”
But this type of system in Mars' atmosphere would either require a large amount of propellant, or a very efficient engine — more efficient than those that already exist, Paton said. To get around this, propellant could be mined from the asteroid belt and delivered to Martian orbit as propellant depots, at which visiting spacecraft could refuel before descending to the surface.
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