You'd think that Mars is the Garden of Eden by reading about space news.
But is the big crusty brown neighbour all it's cracked up to be?
Luckily astronaut Clayton C. Anderson is here to shed some light on what it means to thrust into the deep unknown on a voyage to Mars.
ARSE: Hey Mr Anderson,
Thanks for taking the time to let us pick your brain.
Is there any chance you'd head to Mars to make the history books?
"Nope! Not the answer you were expecting from a steely-eyed space flier with 167 days in space under his belt? Well, first of all, I’m not steely-eyed. Second of all, I love my wife and kids. And they are the preeminent reason I have no desire to go to Mars. Third? I’m guessing it will be pretty damned boring.
Now, if there was a transporter beam that could send me there instantaneously, such that I could spend a few weeks or a few months (or maybe 167 days or so) and then beam home, I’d be in!
My wife and kids sacrificed greatly for me to be able to become an astronaut. They sacrificed further to allow me the opportunity to finally make it to space. And they have sacrificed enough for their husband/dad. It’s time for me to be there for them, and I am proud to be able to do just that.
Many of my colleagues will LEAP at the chance to go to Mars."
ARSE: I think that makes a lot of sense. You mentioned it would be boring on the trip there. How long would you be cooped up?
It’s a journey that I estimate will cover almost 2.5 years in space. 6–9 months travel to the Red Planet will then require an approximate stay of 9 months or so. That stay time allows Mars and Earth to reposition themselves in their respective orbits to provide a second set of 6–9 months to get home.
That’s a long time in deep space, and IMHO we are not even close to being ready to do that. Those astronauts who say they will “…leap at the chance,” can have at it. Perhaps they are not married. Perhaps they have no children. Perhaps those things don’t even matter to highly motivated Type-A personalities seeking challenge after challenge. But they matter very much to me.
Just like you have to wait for Earth and Mars to be in the proper position before you head to Mars, you also have to make sure that they are in the proper position before you head home. That means you will have to spend 3-4 months on Mars before you can begin your return trip. All in all, your trip to Mars would take about 21 months: 9 months to get there, 3 months there, and 9 months to get back. With our current rocket technology, there is no way around this. The long duration of the trip has several implications.
Also, the spacecraft will be weighed down significantly with supplies.
You have to bring enough food, water, clothes, and medical supplies for the crew in addition to all the scientific instruments you will want to take. You also have to bring all that fuel! In addition, if you are in space for nine months, you will need a lot of shielding to protect you from the radiation of the Sun. Water and cement make good shielding but they are very heavy.
Altogether, it is estimated that for a crew of six, you would need 1360777.11kgs of supplies!
The Shuttle can lift about 22680kg into space, so it would take 60 shuttle launches to get all your supplies into space. In the history of the Shuttle, there have only been about 90 launches, and there are less than ten launches per year... So with the shuttle, it would take six years just to get the supplies into space. For this reason, you would probably need to develop a launch system that could lift more than 22680kg pounds into space.
Even with a better launch vehicle, it is unlikely that you could launch the Mars mission all at once. You will have to launch it in several pieces and assemble them in orbit.
ARSE: We really appreciate you taking the time mate.
All the best in the future and thank you for the efforts in space.
Keep lookin’ up!
Would you, in your current situation travel to Mars?
Why or why not?
Thanks for reading and supporting Space Australia.
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