WASHINGTON (CN) – Legislators have seen the red Wednesday – the red planet – heard from a panel of space exploration experts about the challenges and dangers of human travelers over the next 15 to 20 years for Mars ,
It's a 300 million mile journey from Earth to Mars, and according to Tony Bruno, CEO of the space launch company United Launch Alliance, the prospect is more than just dangerous or daunting.
Travel to Mars could "just think so," he said Wednesday in a subcommittee of the Senate on Trade, Science and Transport. "Getting to Mars is like a hole in a pebble beach in California during a tee shot of Paris while standing on a moving pickup … The orbital piece alone is very difficult."
The complexity of getting off the ground and into orbit is compounded by concerns about major health issues for astronauts such as cancer, cataracts and more. "Long-term radiation exposure is the biggest threat," said the panel.
"The voyage to Mars causes astronauts four times more radiation than people working or living on the International Space Station," says Peggy Whitson. Whitson has traveled to the station three times and has called himself "Fleet Leader in Radiation Exposure."
"And this revelation is with the protection of the earth's magnetosphere," she told the committee.
But that should not deter you from "putting boots on Mars," she said. A technology specifically designed to protect human bone mass in space is already in use on Earth and in the International Space Station ISS. She added that new drugs to slow down or prevent radiation damage are also being tested and developed.
Senators asked the panel why robots could not replace human explorers on Mars.
"You need the human element out there," said Dava Newman, a professor at the MIT Department of Aeronautics. "With human ability, when we get to Mars, we'll surpass what we've done for Rover for 50 years, I'm a robotist, I love robotics, but with humans we can double or triple our depth of exploration."
Robots can not cope with sudden shifts in the Martian environment or unexpected obstacles with the same speed or mental skill as a human being, she added.
"There is no substitute for boots on the ground like Buzz Aldrins."
Chris Carberry, CEO of Explore Mars Inc., a nonprofit organization that advises private and public partners on the future journey, noted that the trip to Mars would not be a direct flight.
The return to the moon may seem like a different story, but according to Carberry it's an essential step on the way to Mars.
Developing the technology to get there will take years and requires a unique testing ground. NASA and other partners must continue to explain how moon travels can overlap with the Martian voyage, he said.
Before someone steps on a spacecraft, there must be enough space, life support systems, and research systems ̵
The return to the moon and its use as a launch pad will help NASA and other researchers understand how these developments can be accomplished in real time. But only the return to the moon is not enough.
Given its climate and its potentially habitable atmosphere, Mars is, according to Carberry, the "best option if people want to understand how they can sustain life."
Low earth orbit is being sought as a landed property for the commercialization of private and public partners – and for good reason, Tony Bruno said.
What can be achieved or achieved by developing a low Earth orbit in Mars hunting will be a game changer, he explained.
"Today we reflect on the earth and the solid resources that we have in a world where there is ever more scarcity, but there are 1,000 years of total global metal production only in asteroids between here and the moon ", he said.
There are also more precious metals mined there than ever in human history.
"If it is practical and affordable to access these resources, we consider a human future that is completely different from what we have seen before," he said.
Although the Senate committee focuses on getting "American boots" on the Reds First, the panel emphasized to legislators that aspiration should be an international effort.
It would not only outweigh the costs, it would also promote goodwill.
The Wednesday hearing is the first of many to be held by the committee when plans develop.