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Home / Science / Bringing a Crew to Mars: That's how NASA handles the cumbersome to-do list

Bringing a Crew to Mars: That's how NASA handles the cumbersome to-do list



It's the sort of thing that seems to be feasible, in a way that certainly makes it "someone who gets it". That is, until you look at the almost endless list of details.

It is much easier to bring people safely to and from Mars, which has long been an integral part of Hollywood movies.

"Space travel is perhaps the most dangerous thing humans have ever done," says Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques as he prepares for his mission on the International Space Station

"It's risky," he says , "It will always be like this."

Saint-Jacques frames every potential voyage to Mars as risk-sharing and weighs the value of such a voyage against the likelihood that it will survive.

"We will finally go to Mars, this risk balance makes sense," he says.

It is the same assumption that NASA teams are trying to reach that balance.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques gets help from his colleague Jeremy Hansen, (Jennifer Barr / CBC)

Mars Flight to Hawaii

Many suspect that the major obstacles to successful Mars mission exist All About the technology, but NASA is also exploring ways to cope with other crucial aspects of such a journey – the psychological one.

It funds a project from the University of Hawaii that sends volunteers to a remote, rocky, red world. tinted hills near the volcano Mauna Loa wh Apart from the blue sky and the scattered clouds, the view looks good, almost mars.

The Biodomain in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, where NASA sends teams to simulate what life would be like for the crew on a Mars mission. The terrain in this region is similar to the surface of Mars. (Neil Scheibelhut) Visitors are not allowed near the village.

The idea is that the volunteers will be isolated and live together in one. A narrowed, 11 meter wide arched habitat for eight months, as if they were actually on a distant Mars.

All communications with the rest of the world are time-delayed, as would be the case with a true interplanetary expedition. Depending on how far away Mars is from Earth at the time a message is sent, radio signals can be received for up to 24 minutes – in any direction. That can make conversation frustrating.

"It's all an exercise in patience and humility," mission volunteer Brian Ramos told CBC News.

Occasional Relief Supplies Occur for the Hawaii Crew, but Otherwise They Build Their Own Food (19659020) The crew of a simulated Martian habitat near the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii gives an insight into the interior of their home and describes how it works is to live the life of a Mars explorer – from collecting rock samples to dealing with a broken airlock and "a lot of shit" 1:13

And in hermetically-sealed outfits exploring the environment. Realism is the key, which is why they can not go outside without their false spacesuits.

"My worst moment was probably that I got stuck in the airlock with a lot of shit," says volunteer Sam Payler of Habitat at the time.

But somehow they all got along and survived.

"The goal is to figure out how to choose a crew for these long, isolated space missions," says Martha Lenio of Waterloo, Ontario, who led one of the eight-month missions.

"We are the guinea pigs in a psychology experiment."

Martha Lenio of Waterloo, Ontario, on a HI-SEAS mission near the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. The simulation allows researchers to investigate the implications of having daily routines and psychological stress on a crew on a mission to Mars. (Neil Scheibelhut)

(Spaceship) Cabin Fever

Given this trip to Mars and back could take up to two years, it's critical that NASA understands how this kind of journey is in their heads those who have been in close contact – and in potentially difficult circumstances – for so long. Mars is far from Earth – 54.6 million kilometers in the distance and more than 400 million kilometers in the farthest reaches of the earth their tracks. At this distance, radio transmissions can take more than 20 minutes each way. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS) In the Houston experiment, volunteers are detained for 45 days in an even smaller habitat – a mock spaceship – as in the direction of the stars.

There are no windows or even a chance to go outside.

This experiment aims to measure the effects of monotony on the psyche of those who perform the same tasks day after day.

Nujoud Merancy is a spacecraft systems engineer at NASA in Houston. Behind her is a model of the Orion capsule she works on, which could someday bring people to Mars. (Jason Burles / CBC) "It's basically about human nature, seeing how it unfolds," says NASA Behavioral scientist Tom Williams

He points to discoverers throughout history who coped with similar monotony and cited those who, for example, survived the Antarctic winter.

He adds, "We also know that not everyone can tolerate [monotony] Therefore, it is very important for us to understand what those qualities are that enable someone to succeed in it."

Perfecting Orion

Meanwhile, NASA is also driving the biggest challenge – a spaceship that can bring people to Mars and back.

NASA engineer Nujoud Merancy oversees work on the Orion spacecraft in a huge, garage-like building near a museum with an old Saturn V rocket.

About the size of two minivans, it is larger than the Apollo for lunar missions and will one day help bring people to Mars.

She firmly believes that it is achievable.

NASA Engineer Nujoud Merancy gives a tour of the Orion spacecraft and the major engineering challenges in designing a spacecraft to safely bring a crew to Mars and back. 0:59

"It's my job, I build spaceships," she says. "My job is to solve problems, [and] I think that's all we can do."

But it highlights the myriad of unresolved challenges. One of them is to simply anticipate and find room for everything that needs to be brought.

"All the food, water, oxygen, all the exercise equipment, everything people could need in a spacecraft for two years," says Merancy.

This self-portrait of the NASA rover Mars Curiosity was released on May 30, 2013. The radiation readings taken by Curiosity would exceed the current limits for human exposure during a mission to Mars without significant shielding. (NASA via Reuters)

Those who are walking need protection from radiation, the ability to cope with illness, the ability to repair themselves on their own, which collapses along the way – and, of course, a place to go Live as soon as they sit up.

And then you will need a rocket to bring it back from the surface of Mars. "19659042: Will Anyone Really Leave?"

Merancy agrees to bring people to Mars is daunting, but believes it will happen in her life.

"It" That's not easy and we need one Lots of people working to make it happen, but I think it's possible, "she says, adding that everything is" in the human faculty. "

There are also those who are less optimistic.

A view of Mars from the NASA rover Curiosity. While the terrain resembles the Hawaii volcano Mauna Loa, the similarities end: Mars has an average surface temperature of about -60 degrees Celsius, a fraction of Earth's atmospheric pressure, and a third of Earth's gravity. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS)

Among them is Torontos Randy Attwood, executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, who writes a book about the Lunar Module, the rocky-legged landing craft 40 years ago, astronauts on the Moon

"I would love to see people fly to Mars," he says. But "I do not think that's going to happen."

Attwood notes that engineers are always suggesting something like this Mission is near, but also seems to continue to push bac the scale

"After the first moon mission, Mars was 20 years away," he says.

"And then, after another decade, Mars was still 20 years away, and then, after a few more decades, Mars was 30 years away.

" Mars is always so far in the future … only somewhere on the road. "

The successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018. The rocket is strong enough to send payloads to Mars. (Author: Don Hladiuk)

This, just as the upstarts of billionaire Elon Musk's Space-X may make their own plans for a trip to Mars within the next decade.

In collaboration with NASA, the company has brought new excitement and determination to the idea In February, a Falcon Heavy was launched, the Space X rocket engineered for Mars.

The Tesla's electric payload on the rocket, the Tesla electric payload, plays David Bowie's Space Oddity endless loop, is currently on its way to the Red Planet.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques explains why it is inevitable that humans will one day walk on the surface of Mars. 0:27

But sending a robotic rover or a sports car is a breeze compared to sending people.

Apart from the question of who will pay the bill for billions, even the most optimistic scenario will actually bring a manned mission to Mars many years in the future.

Still, as teams continue to break this list of challenges, the idea of ​​one day seeing footprints on Mars gets closer and closer.

As a people, "So we make progress," says the astronaut Saint-Jacques. from what he sees as an inevitable mission to Mars. "At some point it will be reasonable and natural to take a deep breath and immerse yourself and make the journey."

And the stars will look very different that day.


More from CBC

  • Check out the National Special Report on Life in Mauna Loa Mars Simulation Habitat and the Challenges of Bringing People to the Red Planet – and Back:


  • Watch the national player's report on David Saint-Jacques & # 39; s grueling training program to prepare for his trip to the International Space Station:
Canada's next astronaut to walk in space will be David Saint-Jacques, one of the growing list of awards for owned by the indigenous people of Quebec. As an engineer, physician and astrophysicist, Saint-Jacques also has his professional pilot's license and speaks five languages. The Nationalist traveled to Johnson Space Center in Houston for a look at the making of an astronaut 10:15


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