Thursday, March 7, 2013

To Mars and back

Mars has always held kind of a strange place in the minds of humans and for years there have been tales of travel to Mars.

These include (not an all inclusive list but all worth reading if you have not done so):
Or the Movies and Radio:
 But now there is a chance that the Inspiration Mars Foundation may send such a mission during this decade there may be a chance for 2 people to go make a Mars flyby and return to Earth in 2018 that would take 501 days. It has been announced that the plan is for a "middle aged couple" to go as they hope that this will increase the chance of a successful trip while limiting the chance of genetically mutated children.

There have been all sorts of analysis and comparisons to past journeys of exploration (even a set of hints "How to get along for 500 days alone together" based on the real world experiences of Explorer Deborah Shapiro, who spent more than a year with her husband in the Antarctic).

Yes, the pioneers of exploration would look at 501 days as a short trip and the conditions luxurious. The fact that this Mars mission would only allow sponge baths has been made to show how soft explorers have become.

The old time explores went off in all sorts of weather, with large ships, and large teams of people. These combined to make sure that no one was too crowded or had only 1 person to speak to for months on end. They worked hard to ensure their own (and the crews) survival on almost a daily basis.

Now consider the couple that will be going to Mars in a 12ft by 14ft capsule for 501 days with no privacy or separate space to themselves. The ship will more or less fly itself, there will be no chance to "go out and fix" anything as they are not including space suits (or even an air lock),  etc. Thus the biggest problems will be the constant interaction of 2 people in an enclosed place neither can leave.

Past exploration included lots of work for the explorers on a daily basis (this mission will not carry even experiments) and BOREDOM.  Internet will be out of the question (lag times can be measured in 10 of min. rather than seconds), they may be able to get some broadcast TV or movies (sending towards them will be easy), I am sure they will need to take serious numbers of movies and ebooks.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) report on Sleeping in Space that:
Astronauts are allotted 8.5 hours for sleep during each 24-hour period, but many report that they only need 6 or 6.5 hours to feel fully rested. Some believe that this may be the result of the body feeling less fatigued as a result of being in a microgravity environment.
A little math shows:
501 days x 24 hours = a round trip of 12,024 hours.
501 days x 6.5 hours (from the CSA report) sleep (at most) 3,256.5 hours of the trip.
Figure meals at 2.5 hours a day for 1,252.5 hours of the trip

This leaves 10,020 hours or 417.5 days.

I am even willing to say that 2.5 days will be used for setting things up after launch and preparing for landing.

What can you do for 415 days that will let you stay sane? A little exercise, reading, watching video, chatting at Earth (remember that long delays prevent actual real time conversations).

I love my wife, and we can speak for hours on almost any topic. But I would not want to put her through that many days where I am all she sees and the only one with whom she can hold a real conversation.

Thanks, but I will wait for commercial liners with lots of entertainment and other people, and even then I will think twice about going.

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