Packing for Mars … would you be willing to go? 1


Mars OneThere now exists a shortlist of 100 who have signed up for a one way trip to Mars … yes really. So the 100 who have signed up truly believe they are going, and the Mars One folks claim they are serious about really doing this.

If curious about what happens when, then here is their proposed roadmap

Roadmap_-_Mission_-_Mars_One

Hannah Earnshaw

So what has caught my eye today is that one of the five British candidates on that shortlist, Hannah Earnshaw 23, has an article in the Guardian where she writes all about her hopes, dreams and aspirations for it all.

Now this makes sense …

As a PhD student carrying out astronomical scientific research, I’m naturally drawn to the research possibilities on Mars. We’re already able to achieve amazing things with the rovers we’ve landed there. But there’s only so much that a robotic rover can do compared to what a human on the surface would be capable of, what with the ability to physically apply a range of techniques and make immediate decisions instead of having to wait for commands from mission control on Earth.

 … and she is going into it with the full knowledge that she is never coming back …

When I applied for Mars One, I applied to dedicate my life to the creation of a colony that will have enormous implications for the future of the human race. It’s in many ways a monumental responsibility, a life’s work much bigger than myself, and one for which I feel no qualms about the fact that it’s a journey from which there’s no coming back.

But what about all those she will leave behind, she even has a boyfriend. Over in a different article in the Telegraph she answers that as follows

Earnshaw has a boyfriend, but says the relationship operates within “the understanding that for me the Mars Mission is what I want to do and if I do end up getting through to the final groups, then we’re going to go our separate ways and that’s something we’re both okay with”. 

She adds: “I’m comfortable with the idea of not actually having a life partner as such because I’ll have these life partners in my crew. I compare it a little bit to a marriage because we’ll be spending the rest of our life together if we do get in, but it’s certainly quite different to your idealised picture of a family home”.

Well yes, nothing like a trip to Mars as an ever so subtle hint to your boyfriend that its over.

What is clear is that she has a truly total and complete dedication to the idea, it comes first and everything else comes second.

Now for the skeptical bit

You knew this was coming … right?

My position on all this is that I don’t believe any of it is actually real.

Why?

There is simply no solution on the table for some of the practical problems …

  • Radiation in space is a real problem, so how will they shield their victims volunteers from it on the journey there?
  • Once there how can they possibly survive? Getting them oxygen to breath is of course a rather obvious issue, but it is not that simple, Mars does not just lack oxygen, it also lacks pressure and is only about 0.6% of what we find at sea level here.

Imagine flying at 30,000 ft and the windows blowing out – there is oxygen, but you still die because the air is too thin. Oh but wait the pressure on Mars is not equivalent to 30,000 ft, but rather 100,000 ft, it really is that thin.

The day may indeed by only 40 mins longer than ours, and so that sounds like no big deal, but we know what actually happens when you switch. The folks working at NASA on the MSL switch to Mars time and that involves starting your day 40 minutes later each and every day 9:00, then 9:40 then 10:20 and so on, it soon adds up … they find that they can only sustain this pattern for about 3 months maximum and then have to stop.

Dealing with the temperature is also a really big deal, the average temperature on the surface is -55 C (that’s -67F), and trust me, that is a big deal, so when they build their habitat simulator they need to be building it in the Antarctic in winter.

Apart from the practical challenges there is also the observation that the sponsors for the Mars One venture into the unknown includes…

  • A Dutch ISP
  • A Finish electronics retailer
  • A Dutch law firm
  • An Australian SEO firm
  • A Dutch market research firm
  • A Hungarian language translation firm
  • A space-related software and games company
  • A British publishing company

Inspired yet? Oh but wait, it also has the backing of Paul Römer, the co-creator of Big Brother a reality TV show.

I’ve spoken to Nagin Cox from the mission operations team for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) – NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover – about Mars One, and she advised me that officially in public, the folks at NASA will simply wish them the best of luck and say nothing further, but in private they are as equally skeptical about it all as I am.

So what is going on, what will actually happen?

I speculate that it will all pan out in one of the following ways …

  1. Either the final volunteers get duped, are stuck in a simulator that goes nowhere and we all get to watch as they bounce off each other … reality TV style.
  2. The final selection of volunteers will be actors, or real people let in on the secret, and we all get duped into thinking it is real and get to watch them progress … when in fact nobody goes anywhere, it is just a TV show. They can of course string this variation out for years, not just the trip, but also the landing and their lives on Mars.
  3. Some mixture of the above, perhaps they will indeed dupe not just volunteers by popping them in a simulator, but also all of us, and nobody actually ever goes anywhere.

They do have funding that is just flowing in, and I note that so far the donations that have received includes these generous amounts …

  • Jamaica $ 5
  • Morocco $ 2
  • Armenia $ 1
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina $ 1

Yes, that is just $1, not $1 million, and so for the launch of a Mission to put humans on Mars their entire funding as of January 2015 so far adds up to $ 759,816 … yep, totally credible, they are definitely going.


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