TODAY | December 07, 2012
>>> well, do you like to be fashion forward? it's particularly important if you're headed to mars. and that may be closer than you think as nbc's special correspondent ben fogel recently found out. ben, good morning.
>> reporter: good morning, willie, from the royal observatory here in greenwich. now for centuries astronomers have been looking towards mars, but now it seems life on the distant planet is possible. nasa announced earlier this week that they hoped for a manned mission by 2030 , so what will it take? well, a very special suit to survive on the red planet . mars has long held a fascination over us. the staff of myth and hollywood movies but recent pictures of mars' landscape give us a better understanding of the red planet .
>> we have the technology to do this. if we made a commitment to put people on mars, we could get them there probably in 10 to 12 years.
>> reporter: and everyone it seems is getting into the race, with chinese, russian and indian astronauts limbering up. in this alpine glacier cave, the austrian space forum is testing a little martian helper.
>> the key to colonizing mars is humans and robots working together.
>> reporter: it's in caves, scientists think, robots like this may find signs of life on mars one day, shielded from extreme temperature and radiation.
>> like this one, for example can, go in places that are small or do things that are tang a rouse for humans.
>> reporter: forget war mongering invaders and start thinking best buddies .
>> i just warn you you'll have to check my bag because i'm taking this home with me.
>> reporter: back in the spacelab at innsbruck, university, they are conducting experiments for the mars suit that will enable astronauts to walk, talk, eat and work in the extremes of a martian environment. it takes more than 160 procedures, a loss of checks and balances and three hours to fire up the suit. so what are you checking here?
>> we have an online usage here. the oxygen in the suit.
>> if you got this wrong, he would die, wouldn't he?
>> this is actually putting on a full support system that's like having your own ecosystem, your own little earth with you. if one single thing fails inside there, you are busted.
>> reporter: on that note it's my turn to be a space man. don't apply if you're over 6'3", have shoes bigger than side 10, or if you have a fear of tight spaces, and try not to sneeze in the suit.
>> i feel quite isolated already in this. what kind of person does it take to travel so far to mars and live within this sort of spacesuit.
>> real astronauts, they really have to be trained to stay focused, still be a team player and still have some -- we combine the best qualities in humans into a single person inside the suit.
>> okay, gentlemen, this is mission control .
>> can i talk to you. can you hear me?
>> can i hear you loud and clear.
>> oh, that's amazing.
>> while we're on our way to collecting some non-martian material in the university car park the future looms large. the first human who will walk on mars is probably already born. it might not be me, but it could be my son or my daughter. is there life on mars ?
>> a man's allowed to dream, right? well, i can tell you that suit weighed 99 pounds and i only just got out of it, but i think it suited me. willie.
>> it's not everybody that can pull off a spacesuit, i believe you just did it. ben fogle , thanks very much.
>> very slimming, too.
>>> have you heard south carolina senator jim mint made headlines