The team at the Marshall Space Flight Center is in the early stages of figuring out just how to go about doing that, and fortunately they have a little bit of time to do so, considering that a manned mission to the Red Planet isn't slated until the 2030s, according to an Associated Press report.
So right now, the team is working with partners from the International Space Station to talk through some ideas on how to achieve their goals. They're dealing with the basic, fundamental concepts of how to solve a pretty difficult problem.
The teams at the Marshall Space Flight Center will then take those ideas from concept to design, and figure out how to build a spacecraft that can both land on Mars and support human life for months at a time.
The lander will have two main parts: the bottom half, which is the descent stage and must be able to make a soft landing, and the top part, the payload, which will carry supplies and cargo.
Work that has been done for a long time at the ISS on generating oxygen could help NASA in its design efforts. The researchers are also simulating the rock and soil on Mars to create 3D printing that could let astronauts build stuff with materials on the planet.