Putting a human footprint on Mars is possible within the next twenty years, scientists and Martian advocates say. But, if you don’t want to wait for the technology and funding to come through so you can get to and from the Red Planet, you can now bid for a one-way ticket. That’s right! Scientists say that a sending humans to Mars without the intention of bringing them back to Earth would cut the cost of a mission, just as a one-way ticket to Denver costs less than round trip. This would make the project more economically viable, which is one of the most deciding factors in what has become an ice-cold space race.
Discovery News reports that the ideal and lucky few would likely be past their reproductive prime and spend their retirement establishing a base camp and creating a sustainable environment for future planetary pioneers.
So what would be positive about spending your last years on Mars? On the plus side, you’d weigh 38 percent of what you do on Earth (I’d be past my summertime goal at sixty-nine pounds). Your Martian days would be thirty-seven minutes longer than Earth’s if you wanted to get in some extra reading. You’d also have 669 Martian days, the equivalent of 687 Earth days, in one Martian year. The average temperature measured on Mars is -67 degrees Fahrenheit. But, temperatures have ranged from -200 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, well above Eugene’s shorts and tank-top level.
You could spend your slightly longer days on Mars mining for water, fossils, and precious metals. You may get sick of the monotonous hue of the Martian backdrop, with colors ranging from orange to darker orange. It’s surface is basically made of rust, or iron oxide, which gives it its red shading. At night you could gaze at Phobos and Deibos, Mars’s two irregular shaped moons.
Let’s say NASA went with the plan to send a few cosmonauts on a one-way trip. If that were the case, it would not just raise questions about cost and engineering, but ethics as well. I guess it depends on how you look at it: Shooting a couple of people in a rocket headed for a barren planet without any chance of bringing them home may sound like a cosmological form of exile. Or, maybe it doesn’t sound that different from the stories of pilgrims leaving the old world of Europe to establish a new life in America.
Let’s grant that the two to four people sent to Mars are going willingly. Does that mean it would dissolve our ethical responsibilities? Certainly not, because we would be the ones sending them to their eventual, lonely deaths (can you make it to heaven from Mars?). Without our consent, the consent of NASA, and the good ol’ tax-paying American citizen, the mission would not exist.
The effects of a thirty-five million to 250 million mile journey on the human psyche are also under consideration by the Mars-bound hopefuls. Russian researchers have been conducting isolation experiments on six poor devils that have been locked in a room for over 500 days. Their internal clocks never adapted to the office lighting, causing the men to suffer insomnia. Add this to the knowledge that you’re in friggin’ space and can never turn around and that your destination is also where you’ll be buried. Again, the troopers on the voyage will have full knowledge of what they’ve bargained for, but if they change their mind on the interplanetary flight or when tilling the Martian sand, expect the world’s first cosmo-mutiny.
Sending two to four people to stay on another planet for the rest of their lives would be an unprecedented event. I mean that quite literally. It would have no equal in human history. Of course, this will open the pod-bay doors (HAL) to further man-and-womanned-missions to Mars. It could possibly mark the first chapter in the story of human colonization on the fourth rock from the sun. Or we could find ourselves being made to listen to the cries for help by the sick and deranged trailblazers from the Martian surface. (Hypothetical newsflash: at least three dead on Mars, no source to confirm fourth). My hope is that we wait to do this the old-fashioned way, with government money, a NASA logo, and a return flight home. “Cheap and quick” is liable to land you on Venus or something.
Image by Kevin M. Gill.