The Mars One Mission
WHAT has been your reaction to the news about the Mars 100 project? Do you see it as the next big leap for mankind? A human settlement on Mars by 2025 seems unbelievable but it’s now happening.
Right now, a global search is on for suitable candidates to be the first humans to settle on Mars – some already selected. What kind of people volunteer for a mission like this – leaving everything they know and love at home knowing they will never return? Are these people with little to live for here and see this as a fresh start? Personally, moving house would be enough of an experience for me. So what personal traits and experience are the Mars 100 looking for? Resilient, adaptable, curious, ability to trust and be creative and resourceful. That is a large amount of the population in general.
Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024. The first unmanned mission will be launched in 2018. After the first launch of astronauts to Mars, a new group of four astronauts will land on Mars every two years, steadily increasing the settlement’s size. Can you imagine booking your holiday that far ahead?
The 100 selected will be taught the necessary skills to survive and run the settlement and administer medical assistance to each other; some skills even taught on their journey to Mars. That journey is said to take seven to eight months. That journey will be experienced in very tight quarters together and the only personal hygiene will be wet wipes. No shower facilities. That’s me out already. Their nutrition will be in the form of freeze-dried and canned foods. They will endure the constant humming of machines, life support and ventilators for the whole journey. They will also have to maintain muscle mass in their bodies by rigidly sticking to a three-hour exercise routine. The journey alone will push the astronauts to their limits of their training and personal and mental capacity.
This is all very exciting and something to watch as it is all unfolding in our time and will – if successful – become part of our children’s history lessons. Most of us will be able to tell our grandchildren we saw it happen. The whole world will watch this new world develop. Like ‘The Truman Show’, we’ll be able to follow these people on their journey to Mars. It will be our own personal experience of the future from the safety of our sitting rooms. It will be a unique and personal insight into life on Mars. How will that impact the selected 100 knowing their life from now is now on-camera – a fish bowl experience for them?
This is all very futuristic but I’m uncomfortable with the fact that it’s a one-way ticket. No refund, no return journey, no taxi ride home. So what happens in the midst of it all if you decided to change your mind? What about the psychological impact on these people? You can train the body for a change of environment, increase its strength. The physical side can be manipulated; not the mind. How will the psychologists on this project train these people to not go mad? Every sci-fi movie you watch there’s always one person that goes bananas in space and kills everyone. Another trait you just have to apply for the project is to be psychologically stable. Easy on Earth but maybe not so in the small confines with someone you just do not like. No escape.
What about the moral implications of the selected 100 knowing they will not be able to return home? Left there to survive on a cold hostile planet with the only contact with home been a 7-minute time delay video call home. That would be a frustrating phone call. I get annoyed when on the phone to people and the signal goes for a second.
So if this is to be a colony, this means people will be having children on Mars. I would be checking that they packed the epidural on my flight out. What implications would that have on each child born and reared on Mars? In a way, they would know no different. Maggie Lieu is among the five Britons who have been shortlisted for the Mars One mission. The astrophysics PhD student is quoted in an article by the Daily Mail UK “it would be a privilege to be the first woman to give birth on Mars”, which would make her baby a Martian. I would love to see that passport!
When they get to Mars their daily lives will consist of constructing future projects for the increased population on Mars and the constant research of their new environment. The Rovers (robotic machines) will already have done most of the construction of the living quarters before they arrive. The new settlement will consist of inflatable components which contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a ‘plant production unit’, where they will grow greenery. They will also be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food (that they themselves grew and harvested) in the kitchen, wear regular clothes and, in essence, lead typical day-to-day lives. Each living area is joined by passageways so they can move about freely. When they do venture outside, they need to do so in specially-designed Mars suits.
The astronauts will research how their bodies respond and change when living in a 38% gravitational field and also how food crops and other plants grow in hydroponic plant production units. Research will include extra-settlement exploration to learn about the ancient and current geology on Mars. They will also research the possibility that life once existed on mars or does other than its current guests in the form of humans.
I suppose the 100 selected for the Mars project see themselves as explorers like those before us who left their worlds to explore the globe and find and conquer new worlds. They are willing to endure the hardships and the long flight to Mars to live their dreams. Will human life thrive on Mars? Only time will tell.
Photos c/o space.com