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Mock Mars Mission

June 3, 2013

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the idea of sending people to Mars – because duh that would be so cool right? Just be careful when you’re reading all the hooplah because realistically there’s a million things we need to sort out before that even becomes a real and viable option. The plus side is, there’s nothing scientifically IMPOSSIBLE about a mission to Mars – we just have to get our technology up to par before we try it for real.

Major problem #1: It’s pretty far away. It’s six orders of magnitude further from home than the ISS… not six times, but six decimals. We’re looking at about a year in transit for a few people, optimistically. Also… the return trip. There’s a good chance it won’t happen.

Major problem #2: Radiation. The data compiled by Curiosity rover was just published and the verdict is in – travelers will receive a buttload of radiation on the journey. The equivalent of 50 full-body CT scans, in fact.

Major problem #3: Food. Water. Fuel. Supplies. General life things. They cost a lot and take up space, and the more stuff you have to bring the more fuel you need to get that fatty spacecraft off the ground.

Major problem #4: PEOPLE!

And that brings me to the topic of this post – a planned “Mars Mission” that will take place in the Canadian Arctic next July. Basically, people and psychology pose a gigantic hurdle when we’re talking about space travel. You have to find people that are intelligent, healthy, and qualified… but who are also respectful, cooperative, conflict-managey and full of leadership potential. But not TOO much or else they’ll piss off the other astronauts. Anyway, NASA and other space agencies around the world do extensive testing on potential astronauts, including experiments where they’re locked in a habitat for a few weeks. Their every move is analyzed – down to which person is the first to eat food off their plate at mealtimes, which person smiles most, who most commonly begins conversations, who’s the first to try stabbing someone, etc.

The Real World – SPACE.

So anyway this mock mission to Mars will have six people living in a cylindrical “house” that’s 25′ tall and 27′ wide. FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR. Oh, and they have to wear space suits. They are going to be expected to go outside and do geological studies just like they would be doing on an actual Mars mission, and they will also be responsible for maintenance and repair of their equipment and home. They’re going to spend a year in the freezing Arctic, with the same six people, in space suits, in a circle with a 27-foot diameter – and their every move will be observed to gain understanding of human interaction under the stressful conditions that will likely be present on a real Mars mission. I bet some of that footage will be awesome.


So… here’s to the heroic volunteers of this experiment. I don’t even think they’re allowed to have alcohol up there.



From → SPACE

  1. Susan permalink

    You have a good voice for sharing science-y information on the web, Jen. I’m learning stuff and it doesn’t make my brain hurt. Win!

  2. Aw thanks Susan! It’s fun to write, because I have to look up random topics and I end up learning while I do it, too. Wins all around, I suppose 🙂

  3. The people behind mars one, should definitely read this post and think again about their plans.

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