MANKIND has long been fascinated by the prospect of travelling to Mars.

Its dramatic colour and the possibility it could support life have inspired countless works of science fiction, including the War of the Worlds, the Martian Chronicles and films such as The Martian.

Now, after decades of research, the first manned mission to the Red Planet could be little more than ten years away.

But scientists must find a way of protecting the astronauts from the enormous mental and physical challenges they will face during the trip which, including time spent on the planet itself, is likely to take two years.

At some point the initial crew will become the first astronauts to lose sight of the Earth, increasing their sense of isolation.

Daily Echo:

One of the people involved in the research is Associate Professor Adam Hawkey, Solent University's head of sport science and performance.

Adam, 43, is working with NASA and other organisations on the best ways of keeping astronauts healthy on their journey from Earth to Mars and back again.

He has also joined forces with former NASA astronaut Jim Pawelczyk to produce an educational YouTube video which aims to inspire the next generation explorers.

The two-and-a-half-minute film focuses on the challenges the astronauts will face during long, claustrophobic months cooped up in a small spacecraft.

But it also explains how exercise regimes and other techniques can be used to alleviate what Adam describes as "the physical price of a ticket into space".

Daily Echo:

Adam said: “It’s a real honour to be involved in such an initiative and it is always enjoyable and insightful working with those select few who have experienced leaving the relative protection of our home planet.

"Informing and inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers is a great privilege.”

Married with three daughters - one of whom has already expressed in an interest in going into space - Adam has worked at Solent University since 2016.

He is a former researcher Kennedy Space Centre, where he studied the musculoskeletal changes that occur in the human body during space travel.

He has been awarded a Fellowship of the British Interplanetary Society, the oldest organisation devoted to space exploration.