Mars Madness

MarsIf someone had told me five years ago that people would be lining up to commit suicide by going on a one way trip to Mars I would have called them daft. It seems inconceivable that around 200,000 people world-wide signed up for this mad idea, and now after careful selection we are down to the final 100 candidates – 50 men and 50 women. More selection processes will be carried out until we get to the final 24 who will make the one way trip to the red planet.

The whole process of getting the Mars inhabitants to their destination are complex, and will, according to the planning, continue from the initial launch of equipment in 2020. Crew One will follow in 2024 and a second in 2026. It is anticipated that more people will be sent every two years.

Mars Rover Due For Launch In 2020

Mars Rover Due For Launch In 2020

Before the launch of Crew One in 2024 there will be four years of preparation starting with the launch of a Rover and a trailer which will, supposedly, search the area for a suitable site and  generally prepare the chosen site for the landing of the first habitats. The Rover will move the equipment to the chosen site using the trailer and begin erecting them.

According to the plan, the site should be operational in 2023 and ready for the arrival of the first astronauts in 2024. When they arrive they should find the habitats erected with a good supply of oxygen, water and food, all completed by the Rovers.

It all sounds like science fiction to me and the fact that normally sane people would volunteer for such a trip astounds me, especially when you consider that most of the volunteers are young with the prospect of a long life ahead of them. It seems that for some at least, the idea of going down in history as the first humans to inhabit another planet is the deciding factor.

Bas Landsdorp - CEO Of Mars One

Bas Landsdorp – CEO Of Mars One

This whole venture is the brainchild of a group of Dutchmen who formed the company ‘Mars One’, and according to them the whole project will cost around $6 Billion. They are hoping to raise this amount from donations. The company has said that it wishes to film all elements of the adventure and screen it across the globe. They state that it is not for profit, but is intended to be the ultimate TV ‘reality show’. I am not sure I would be willing to sacrifice my life for such a venture, but there is no accounting for taste!

Since my last post on this subject i.e. ( a lot more information has come to light, but none of it convinces me that it is a feasible venture. Even NASA has stated that the people involved could not be expected to live beyond 68 days, for the risks involved in getting the astronauts to the red planet are enormous. Even so, there are plans by NASA to send a mission to Mars in 2030. It is interesting to note that even Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckon settlers on Mars would all be dead within a few months. Like I said, suicide, but at least they would get their name in the papers.

Mars One Habitats

Mars One Habitats

To begin with, it seems that Mars One are putting an awful lot of faith in the robotic rover that is intended to not only scout the terrain for a suitable site, but will also have to work for a minimum of four years to move and erect the habitats when they arrive. It is also presuming that everything arrives on time and at the right place on the planet. In 2022 a second Rover along with two living units, two life support systems, and a supply unit will be sent to Mars. A problem with these Rovers would be catastrophic for the whole venture.

Not only do they rely on these robots to prepare the housing for the people, but they will also have to provide the water and oxygen for a breathable atmosphere in the habitats. The water will be extracted from the Martian soil by evaporating the subsurface ice particles in an oven. Following this the evaporated water is condensed back to its liquid form and stored. Part of the water is used for producing oxygen. Nitrogen and Argon will be filtered from the Martian atmosphere to make up the other components of the breathable air inside the habitat. Whichever way you look at it, this is a complicated process, and one can only hope that everything goes according to plan.

Earth To Mars

Earth To Mars

As mentioned in my previous post, the continued health of these astronauts comes into question, for such are the conditions in space they may not even reach the planet. Travelling time between the Earth and Mars can vary between six and eight months depending on the orbit alignment. In deep space there is cosmic radiation that is deadly to the human body. Prolonged exposure will lead to cancer and osteoporosis. Here on Earth we are protected by the magnetic field around the planet. In space there is no such shield.

Another worry for the people in their capsule is the prolonged lack of gravity which can lead to bone and muscle wastage and loss of eyesight as the ISS occupants have already encountered. One would presume that the astronauts would have a strict regime of exercises but these are difficult in a non-gravity situation. If they finally get there one can only hope they have the necessary strength to exit the capsule and gain entry to the habitats.

Exercise On The ISS

Exercise On The ISS

Once established, exercise will be paramount to survival because the gravity on Mars is 62% less than on Earth so the astronauts will have a very tough time keeping their bodies in sufficient shape to retain their muscle power. Should they fail in this their bodies will steadily get weaker.

ISS astronauts lose a maximum of 30% muscle performance and maximum loss of 15% muscle mass after only 4-5 months on the station, so you can imagine what will happen to our brave young people on the way to Mars, and particularly when they get there.

On top of that the habitats will need to be fully insulated, for the average temperature on the planet is -63C compared to Earth’s average of 14C. Can you imagine living in a permanent -63C, plus or minus a bit, for the rest of your life? It will be worse than living in a freezer.

Three Mars One Team Members

Three Mars One Team Members

Among the 50 hopefuls are 5 Brits, the oldest being 35. They are Ryan MacDonald, a 21-year-old masters student from Derby, Maggie Lieu, 24, a PhD student in astrophysics at the University of Birmingham, Hannah Earnshaw, 23, a PhD student in astronomy at Durham University, Alison Rigby, 35, a science laboratory technician, from Beckenham, Kent, and Clare Weedon, 27, a systems integration manager for Virgin Media, from Addlestone, in Surrey.

Ryan MacDonald

Ryan MacDonald

In an interview Ryan MacDonald said,  “The most important thing to do in life is to leave a legacy. A lot of people do that by having a child, having a family. For me this would be my legacy. Hundreds of years down the line who is going to know who was the President of the United States? Everyone will remember who were the first four people who stepped onto Mars.”

Apart from the British contenders there are 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven from Africa and seven from Oceania. From these fifty finalists twenty-four will be chosen to go in either 2024 or 2026 with the rest supposedly following on later flights.

Why Would Anyone Want To Leave This Behind?

Why Would Anyone Want To Leave This Behind?

There can be little doubt that the psychological strain of being away from family and friends and everything that one accepts as normal here on Earth will be a major problem. The participants will be imprisoned in their habitats with only their compatriots for company. It will be akin to being in prison, for you cannot go outside without a space suit, and what do you do when you are outside? No more parks for a nice stroll or a beach on which to lay in the sun. No more interaction with people other than your fellow astronauts so perhaps it is a good thing their lives will be short.

There can be little doubt that this is a very risky venture and a thousand things can go wrong. A small error can cost the lives of the people even before they reach the planet, and when they get there, their chances of living past a few short weeks is very small. We shall have to wait and see if the contestants for the subsequent flights still want to go if the first crew die after only a few short days or weeks.

Mother Earth - I Love You!

Mother Earth – I Love You!

As for me, I am not going anywhere. I am staying right here on good old Mother Earth and I would advise you to do the same!


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