Friday, June 3, 2011

Get Off My Planet


No, really. Get off. For good.

So the Mars500 wanted to know if people can live and work for 520 days in isolation on a space ship. But what if you went to Mars... and STAYED?

I've written much in the past weeks about Mars and the "analog" experiments that may teach us how to survive there: medical, geographical, practical, operational, agricultural, and the list goes on (and on, and on). Being a participant of analog studies and a promoter of field work in extreme environments, I know these work in tandem to provide very valuable data to the Mars quest. Is the next logical step a one-way trip? Do we worry too much about getting people back to Earth who may not even be interested in doing so?

Washington Post Mars Colony
I only used to see questions like this on other space blogs, or trade periodicals – but amazingly, the idea is becoming more mainstream, increasingly backed by astronauts, space industry personnel and laymen enthusiasts alike.

FOX news featured 400 people who volunteered for a one way mission to Mars; and most recently, the Washington Post cited the same materials in the Journal of Cosmology about a growing movement of scientists who believe such colonization should not be hindered by modern budget squabbles.

The most comprehensive study of the requirements are compiled in the hardback book, A One Way Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet -- with some big-name Apollo moonwalkers in the mix, alongside the gentlemen (both editors of the tome) who sparked what can now officially be called a rising movement.

A few days after the newest Post article was released, I was sitting at a table with a flying pig, a brown bear and a really, really shocked chicken... when Robyn Villavecchia asked the rest of the attendees at a BTS-1 Brunch: "If you had a chance to go to Mars one-way… not to collect rocks but to start a COLONY, would you do it?"

Willing Mars Crew
Many hands immediately shot up into the air without hesitation. Others had disclaimers such as, "My children are toddlers now, but when they are grown, yes!" or "If I wrapped up my life here on Earth and my family approved" -– but everyone voted positively. Everyone would go.

And these are not people who think you just jump on a spaceship and saunter about, like in a science fiction film. These are NASA engineers, Shuttle contractors, technicians and/or space journalists, who have in-depth understanding of the grueling training, massive dangers, the cost, the fuel, the propulsion technology, the effects of weightlessness on the body and the mission checklists involved.

And we're still on board as a willing crew! ...But not in a light-hearted sense at all.

Mars To Stay
Lives are at stake, to be sure. However, our exploratory nature has never stopped [some of] us from accepting the risks inherent in pioneering. Could we wait for a breakthrough in propulsion technologies that might shorten the trip? Sure. Mars will still be there. I won't deny my sense of urgency results from self-reflection of the shortness of my own lifespan and my desire to watch a Martian landing on television, knowing that we nailed it. It's about the only way I'd order cable again.