In fact, the space program intends to have humans orbiting Mars by the year 2030.
For the Challenger Learning Center at Heartland Community College in Normal, that means one of its educational programs is more relevant than ever.
And on Monday morning, members of a few central Illinois news outlets got to see why first-hand. The center hosted a "Mini Media Mission to Mars."
"We know not everyone is going to grow up to be astronauts. However, we do want everyone to grow up and achieve their dreams," said Lead Flight Director Stacey Shrewsbury.
The day started with a debriefing on the mission to complete a crew exchange with "others" who are finishing a two year stay on Mars.
Then it was time for "take off" in a simulated experience that normally educates and entertains about 200 classes every year. That breaks out to be about 6,000 kids.
In real life, traveling to Mars will take you between six to nine months because it's more than 100 million miles away.
But the Challenger Learning Center has condensed the experience for the sake of saving time. Still, you get added touches like real-sounding audio from master control and a rumbling vibration under your seat when it's for "blast off."
Once "on board" the spacecraft and traveling toward the red planet, the reporters were assigned to several different teams.
WMBD's Jacob Long was responsible for assembling and launching a probe to gather research from one of Mars' two moons.
For the most part, the experience was successful. There was one close call when the air pressure in the cabin destabilized. An alarming red light and siren even signaled something was wrong.
But the crew was able to reseal an entry and continue on its way.
The spacecraft eventually "landed" on Mars without incident, and Jacob's probe made it to its intended target.
Shrewsbury said, "By sending that machine ahead of time, we can learn more about that resource and find ways to use it when you send humans."
NASA already knows Mars has a strong presence of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), a weaker force of gravity than Earth and evidence of a canyon and volcano.
What NASA doesn't know is how adaptable humans will be to sustainable life on the planet. For instance, food needs to be invented that can last years without losing its nutritional value.
The human body also needs to adapt to a one-third loss in body weight due to the reduction Mars' gravitational pull.
Still, Shrewsbury is confident those issues will be worked out in the future.
"Since we've been able to adapt to gravity on Earth, I think we can even adapt to gravity on Mars and what that would be like," she said.
For that reason, Shrewsbury and the team at Heartland's Challenger Learning Center plan on continuing its Mars missions for students and adults.
It's one of 45 centers across the country adapting to the ever changing field of space exploration.
During a typical experience, visitors also spend time in master control where they send and receive messages from the spacecraft.
They also help defuse any problems and make sure the mission stays on track.