Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mars One - The Reality

Recall for a moment a few of the delicious pleasures of life...
  • Breathing in fresh air
  • Walking among the colored leaves of autumn
  • Having a good time with friends
  • Eating a burger tricked out just the way you like it
  • And washing it down with a craft beer
  • Browsing in a gift shop
  • Visiting one of the national parks
  • Going fishing with a buddy
  • Going on a date with your significant other
  • Visiting family
  • Watching the full moon on a clear night
  • Feeling the warm sun on your face
I'll stop here. You could easily add a hundred more delights to this list, things we often take for granted. These are a few of the things that the people who journey to Mars to establish a colony will never experience again.

It's one thing to consider this conceptually. It will be another thing entirely to experience these deprivations on a daily basis. Instead of breathing the autumn air, breathing stale air tainted with the stink of the crew and Mars dust. Instead of drinking a glass of cold, clear water, drinking water recycled from your own urine. And on and on.

Astronauts - International Space Station
Hundreds of thousands of people have applied to participate in a project called "Mars One," a private enterprise to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. The main thing, however, is that Mars One will produce a reality TV show of the journey and what they do to create a settlement on Mars - if they make it to the surface. The idea is to go in crews of four starting in 2024. They say the technology can only get them there. That's why it's called Mars One - one way.

REALITY: Most of the technology needed to get them there doesn't exist yet. In 2015, the venture to establish a small settlement on Mars is not only science fiction, it's speculative science fiction.

By the way, the organizers and promoters of Mars One have no intention whatsoever of going to Mars themselves.

Still, there's an amazing amount of interest among the general public. This brief video documents the thoughts of five hopeful Mars One space travelers as they contemplate leaving planet Earth forever for a new home on Mars.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't board a spacecraft with any of these "hopefuls." One says the journey would "give me another purpose for living." I wouldn't want to risk my life in close quarters with a young dude who is still searching for his purpose in life. Another volunteer described himself as "a turd in the toilet bowl of life." get the idea.

To be kind, I can only say that these people must be thinking about some sci-fi movie they once watched. They seem utterly clueless about what wold be involved in space travel. All the well-publicized challenges and dangers aside, there is the rarely mentioned issue of months of weightlessness and Mars' low gravity and how this will cause bone and muscle loss over time. Or the onslaught of solar radiation and cosmic radiation. The problem of shielding people in the spacecraft has not been solved.

And on Mars' surface, there's no planetary electromagnetic field or a rich atmosphere (as there is on Earth) to protect people on the surface. And finally, there's the psychological impact of being deprived of all those cool things we sometimes hold dear and sometimes take for granted. Once the longing and regret become intense and persistent, there will be nothing they can do about it. I'm sure the star-struck volunteers are thinking about something else than the realities of space travel.

The question is, will watching things unravel onboard or on the surface make for good reality TV? The promoters of Mars One are betting it will.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2014. Building Personal Strength .

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