FLIGHT MARS ONE IS NOW BOARD­ING

WILL YOU BE WAIT­ING AT THE GATES?

Guru Magazine - - Contents - DOROTHÉE GRE­VERS

We all know some­one we’d like to ship off to Mars. And here’s your chance: Mars One is re­cruit­ing vol­un­teers for a one-way trip to the Red Planet. Ap­pli­cants send their videos to earn a place aboard. Some of them are hi­lar­i­ous…

It’s 2013, the global tem­per­a­tures are on the rise, and the world pop­u­la­tion is steadily grow­ing. Some­times it can seem that the apoc­a­lypse has al­ready be­gun. But why face up to our prob­lems when we can pack our bags and move to Mars?

For decades, space agen­cies such as NASA and the Euro­pean Space Agency (ESA) have dreamed of send­ing hu­mans to the Red Planet for the sake of ex­plo­ration, dis­cov­ery, and sat­is­fy­ing our cu­rios­ity. How­ever, in an at­tempt to out­com­pete NASA and the ESA – and to sat­isfy the im­pa­tient masses – sev­eral in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses have set up their own ‘space tourism’ projects, each with their own very spe­cific agenda. While NASA and the ESA are con­cerned with sci­en­tific ad­vance, in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses dream of com­mer­cial suc­cess. For them, the Earth is run­ning out of mon­ey­mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. And Mars looks to be a pretty at­trac­tive Plan B.

One-way ticket to Mars, any­one?

One of the most un­con­ven­tional space tourism busi­nesses is Mars One, a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that hopes to turn Mars into our fu­ture home by 2023. Their plan is am­bi­tious to say the least, and they have at­tracted as much cu­rios­ity and en­thu­si­asm as they have crit­i­cism. But what is per­haps keep­ing the pub­lic en­ter­tained and tuned in to this mis­sion is Mars One’s out­landish as­tro­naut se­lec­tion strat­egy. The Mars One project is plac­ing a lot of em­pha­sis on mak­ing their in­ter­plan­e­tary trav­els a world­wide, col­lab­o­ra­tive en­deav­our. Not only have they con­tacted com­pa­nies, univer­sity pro­fes­sors, sci­en­tists, and a bunch of other peo­ple of in­ter­est from all over the world to help set up this mis­sion, they also plan to se­lect the hu­mans who will be mov­ing to Mars via demo­cratic pro­ce­dures. To gather in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est, they have opened the se­lec­tion process to any­one. The only min­i­mum re­quire­ment for en­try is that you can record a video of your­self. The killer twist, how­ever, is that the suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will be mak­ing a one-way trip to Mars – with no pos­si­bil­ity of ever get­ting back to Earth. Once the as­tro­nauts have been se­lected, trained, prepped, and rock­eted off to Mars, the plan is to cre­ate a re­al­ity TV show (yes, se­ri­ously) of the whole thing… which the rest of us bor­ing, unad­ven­tur­ous ter­res­trial hu­mans will be able to watch in envy (or pity – Ed).

As­tro­naut au­di­tions are open!

In April 2013, Mars One be­gan re­cruit­ing as­tro­nauts. Cit­i­zens of the world ap­plied to be­come one of the first four hu­mans to land and set­tle on Mars. Af­ter fill­ing in an ap­pli­ca­tion form, cre­at­ing a pub­lic pro­file on their web­site, and (of course) pay­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion fee, ap­pli­cants were asked to up­load a 30 sec­ond video out­lin­ing why they want to go and their sense of hu­mour (no joke) – with the aim of con­vinc­ing oth­ers that they are the right per­son for the job. By the dead­line at the end of Au­gust, no less than 200,000 peo­ple had ap­plied for a one-way ticket to Mars. In­ter­est­ingly, al­though Mars One is a Dutch or­ga­ni­za­tion, when it came to the na­tion­al­i­ties of ap­pli­cants, the top three coun­tries were the USA (24%), In­dia (10%), and China (6%), re­spec­tively. Out of the top 10 coun­tries, only 3 were Euro­pean – the UK (4%), Rus­sia (4%), and Spain (2%).

Es­ti­mated jour­ney time: 7 months. Length of stay: eter­nity.

In con­trast to some of the ap­pli­cants (who seem al­most in­ten­tion­ally lu­di­crous), the peo­ple be­hind Mars One are very se­ri­ous about the mis­sion. So far, how­ever, the pro­gram has been widely crit­i­cised. Space flight is tricky enough on its own, but there is another hin­drance that’s per­haps even more press­ing: money. The truth is, the brains be­hind Mars One are still ne­go­ti­at­ing with their sup­pli­ers and car­ry­ing out their own re­search. As such, they haven’t yet man­aged to give a de­tailed es­ti­mate of how much money they’ll need for the mis­sion. Cur­rently, they’ve es­ti­mated a to­tal cost of ap­prox­i­mately $6 bil­lion for the first group of as­tro­nauts, but out­siders have com­mented that this num­ber is far too low to truly re­flect all the costs in­volved. Another point of crit­i­cism is whether or not Mars One will have all the re­sources and knowl­edge nec­es­sary to carry out this mis­sion be­yond the ini­tial space flight to Mars. Liv­ing in space is a com­plex busi­ness for sev­eral rea­sons. One of the most im­por­tant of th­ese is health:

be­ing in space for seven months has a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the body. Due to the lack of grav­ity, your body re­quires much less strength to move around. This means that your mus­cles weaken and the den­sity of your bones de­creases, mak­ing them more frag­ile when you ar­rive on Mars. The heart is also dam­aged, pre­dis­pos­ing as­tro­nauts to heart at­tacks and angina. And that’s not all! Zdenka Kun­cic, As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Physics in Syd­ney, in­sists that space ra­di­a­tion is a se­ri­ous is­sue: “For a long-haul manned space mis­sion like a trip to Mars, a se­ri­ous risk that will be faced by as­tro­nauts is the sud­den bursts of en­hanced ra­di­a­tion as­so­ci­ated with ‘ space shocks’. Such in­tense ra­di­a­tion can po­ten­tially cause ad­verse health ef­fects like cataracts.” Kun­cic goes on to ex­plain how the an­swer isn’t straight­for­ward: “One so­lu­tion is to de­velop an alert sys­tem on the space­craft that will au­to­mat­i­cally in­flate an ad­di­tional shield­ing layer around the in­side. Another pos­si­ble so­lu­tion is to ini­ti­ate a mag­netic field that can de­flect the charged par­ti­cles in the ra­di­a­tion burst away from the space­craft in­te­rior.” A re­cent study car­ried out in Rus­sia, called Mars-500, tested how liv­ing in close quar­ters would af­fect as­tro­nauts. The ex­per­i­ment fo­cused on the ef­fects of iso­la­tion on the par­tic­i­pants. They were con­fined to a mock space­ship for 520 days while the re­searchers ob­served their be­hav­ior. Al­though the Rus­sians claimed that their par­tic­i­pants were all healthy and

psy­cho­log­i­cally sta­ble when the ex­per­i­ment ended, the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of

Sciences dis­puted this rather op­ti­mistic claim. Ac­cord­ing to their re­port, two thirds of the par­tic­i­pants ex­pe­ri­enced symp­toms that weren’t healthy at all. Al­though as­tro­nauts are re­quired to ad­here to a strict ex­er­cise regime, many of the ex­per­i­ment’s par­tic­i­pants aban­doned their ex­er­cise sched­ules – most likely due to the side ef­fects of liv­ing in iso­la­tion. Fur­ther­more, while most as­tro­nauts have some prob­lems sleep­ing when they’re in space, in this ex­per­i­ment the sleep­ing is­sues seemed to be far worse than an­tic­i­pated due to the pro­longed du­ra­tion of the study. Their so­cial be­hav­ior also changed: they with­drew from each other and en­tered a state sim­i­lar to that of hi­ber­nat­ing an­i­mals. The tax­ing ef­fects that liv­ing on Mars will have on the four suc­cess­ful Mars One ap­pli­cants seem to be be­ing taken se­ri­ously by the Mars One pro­gram (as can be seen from their

ex­ten­sive check­list for the per­fect can­di­date). How­ever, the trou­ble even NASA and the ESA are hav­ing in fig­ur­ing out how to make liv­ing in space go smoothly makes Mars One’s plan seem some­what overly con­fi­dent. That said, no space mis­sion has ever re­cruited a mix of sex-ob­sessed, con­flict-lov­ing can­ni­bals. Per­haps they’ll be suc­cess­ful af­ter all.

ABOVE: The last launch of the 30 year Space Shut­tle pro­gram, on 8th

July 2011.

BE­LOW: Ex­e­rior of the Mars-500 mod­ule.

ABOVE: In­side the Mars-500

Mod­ule.

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