While the open call of NASA has gotten many of us excited, we might not be fully aware of the risks of signing up for the Mars trip. The deadline for the applications will soon be upon us, so you do not have much time left to decide.
The astronaut program from NASA involves a trip to the red planet sometime in the 2030s. However, there are chances that this might happen even sooner, as SpaceX and Mars One are expecting. Exploring new lengths of the universe is an enormous achievement, but the stakes are also very high.
First of all, the journey itself will pose various difficulties, since the travellers will need to survive in an environment without gravity for six months. While we now know that this is possible thanks to Scott Kelly who has spent almost one year on the ISS, we also know that astronauts go through quite some changes. The trickiest part will be the stash of supplies, since this mission will not be able to receive supplies from Earth. Additionally, the landing itself will be a delicate operation.
Pascal Lee, SETI Institute planetary scientist, has drawn attention to the risks of going on such a trip during the New Worlds conference that took place last year in Austin, Texas. Thankfully, the most vital element for survival is already there: water. The rest however, is not as simple.
Mars’ atmosphere was mostly lost much time ago and the planet is vulnerable to radiation from cosmic and solar rays. Therefore, the astronauts will have to live underground, at a depth of at least nine feet, as Jim Logan, long-distance biomedical expert and former NASA physician has pointed out. Furthermore, the atmosphere has a high level of carbon dioxide, so astronauts will constantly be at risk of suffocating. The problem could be solved by transporting plants with them, which would convert the CO2 to oxygen.
Martian dust might also lead to suffocation, since it is very fine. Settlements would be threatened by the dust itself, and not necessarily dust storms. Astronauts will also heavily rely on heating machines, since the temperatures on the red planet are between 80 and -227 degrees F (27 and -143 degrees C).
Lastly, there is the matter of low atmospheric pressure. Humans would not be able to live without a rover or a pressurized suit, otherwise the water in their bodies would completely evaporate.
If all the risks of signing up for the Mars trip have not scared you off, you still have two days to apply for joining the astronauts here.
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