Friday, 8 January 2016

Trip to Mars: A fatal and stupid trip                           

 Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, announced the Mars One project in May 2012. He worked for five years at Delft University of Technology and in 2008 founded Ampyx Power in order to develop a new, viable method of generating wind energy. In 2011, he sold part of his shares in Ampyx in order to launch Mars One.

Lansdorp became determined to establish the first permanent human colony on Mars during his studies at the University of Twente. His primary focus was not on overcoming the technological challenges, but rather going ahead with the project instead. Until 2013, he financed almost the entire project himself. However, he has faced much criticism and skepticism about his Mars One project and justly so. More on this later in this article.

Lansdorp’s project proposes that astronauts who choose yo go to Mars for the first time should intend to stay  there since returning the astronauts from the surface of Mars is one of the most difficult parts of a Mars mission, hence the idea of a one-way trip to Mars has been proposed several times. The unused emergency return vehicles would then be recycled into settlement construction as soon as the habitability of Mars becomes evident to the initial pioneers. In other words, this trip will be a one-way trip. The habitability of remaining on Mars alive for any extended time or even returning alive to Earth is non-existent. I will explain wgy later in this article.

By making it a one-way trip, the mission is advocated both to reduce the cost and to also ensure a permanent settlement on Mars. Among many notable Mars to Stay advocates, former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been particularly outspoken, suggesting in numerous forums "Forget the Moon, Let’s Head to Mars.” In June 2013, Aldrin promoted a manned mission "to homestead Mars so that humans can become a two-planet species—Earth and Mars.”

In August 2015, Aldrin, in association with the Florida Institute of Technology, presented a "master plan", for NASA’s consideration, for astronauts, with a "tour of duty of ten years", to colonize Mars before the year 2040. The Mars Underground, Mars Homestead Foundation, Mars One, and Mars Artists Community advocacy groups and business organizations have also adopted Mars to Stay policy initiatives. The earliest formal outline of a Mars to Stay mission architecture was given at the Case for Mars VI Workshop in 1996, during a presentation by George Herbert titled "One Way to Mars.”

Under Mars to Stay mission architectures, the first humans to travel to Mars would typically be in six-member teams. After this initial landing, subsequent missions would raise the number of persons on Mars to 30, thereby beginning a Martian settlement. Since the Martian surface offers all the natural resources and elements necessary to sustain a robust, mature, industrialized human settlement—unlike, for example the Moon. As such, a permanent Martian settlement is thought to be the most effective way to ensure that humanity becomes a space-faring, multi-planet species.

Space activist Bruce Mackenzie, for example, proposed a one-way trip to Mars in a presentation "One Way to Mars – a Permanent Settlement on the First Mission" at the 1998  International Space Development Conference, arguing that since the mission could be done with less difficulty and expense if the astronauts were not required to return to Earth, the first mission to Mars should be a settlement and not a visit.

Paul Davies, writing in the New York Times in 2004, made similar suggestions. Under his plan, an initial colony of four astronauts equipped with a small nuclear reactor and a couple of rover vehicles would make their own oxygen, grow food, and even initiate building projects using local raw materials. Supplemented by food shipments, medical supplies, and replacement gadgets from Earth, the colony would be indefinitely sustained. Through the use of digital fabricators and in-vitro fertilization it is assumed that a permanent human settlement on Mars can grow progressively from an original thirty to forty pioneers.

A Mars to Stay mission following Aldrin's proposal would enlist astronauts in the following timeline: Age 30: an offer to help settle Mars is extended to select pioneers. Age 30–35: training and social conditioning for long-duration isolation and time-delay communications. Age 35: launch three married couples to Mars; followed in subsequent years by a dozen or more couples Age 35–65: the development of sheltered underground living  spaces (artificial insemination ensures genetic diversity) Age 65: an offer to return to Earth or retire on Mars is given to first-generation settlers.

Who really wants to go on this mission?

Since the application process opened in 2013, more than 202,000 aspiring astronauts applied to the nonprofit foundation to help make this dream become a reality. The numbers of aspiring astronauts were rapidly slashed to just over 1,000 in the first round, then to 660. Then, after online interviews with Mars One medical director Norbert Kraft, these fools have been culled to just 100. The round three choices consist of 50 men and 50 women, ranging in age from 19 to 60. Thirty nine come from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa and 7 from Australia. One of the candidates, who calls himself “M1-K0,” claims to be a Martian himself, one of the first four to arrive on Earth. Does this tell you something about the people who chose this twit?

Quite frankly, I think every single one of those aspiring would-be astronauts are all daft. Who really wants to permanently leave the greenery and fresh air and water on Earth, not to mention their friends and families for a dusty dry planet? They are either insane or alternatively have a death wish or are nobodies who want to make a name for themselves in the history books.

The fourth round will consist of group challenges designed to test their willingness to deal with the strains of living on Mars. After this, the remaining candidates will be split into six groups of four which will receive training in a replica base on Earth. That final group will consist of 24 cosmonauts who will become employees of Mars One, helping the project prepare for colonization in 2025.

However, before these dedicated explorers make their way on the grueling 7-month journey through the solar system, Mars One intends to first send out communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions, which will set up the outpost on Mars where the human crew will live and work—and die.

Lansdorp said, "When humans go to Mars, they will settle on Mars and build a new Earth, a new planet. What follows in this article will surely convince you that Mars will never be a new Earth and humans will never live on that planet.

Why Lansdorp’s project isn’t really feasible

Mars affords neither an ozone shield nor magnetospheric protection. Ozone in Earth’s stratosphere is a layer of the atmosphere located 10 to 30 miles above the Earth. It serves as a shield, protecting people and the environment from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. The stratospheric ozone layer filters out harmful sun rays, including a type of sunlight called ultraviolet B. Exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) has been linked to cataracts (eye damage) and skin cancer. Scientists have also linked increased UVB exposures to crop injury. The people on Mars can be protected from UBV but their crops won’t have the same protection. Stellar wind, (coronal mass ejections) from our sun has a detrimental effect on planetary environments and evolution of planets. Solar storms are not dangerous to humans on Earth’s surface.  Earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere protect our human bodies from the effects of solar flares. Mars does not have that protection. Worse yet, Mars is twice as close to the Sun than Earth so the solar wind will be more fierce on Mars.

Large doses of radiation have drastic effects on the human body. Immediately after exposure to radiation, a person may feel headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and may even experience severe illness or death if the dosage is high enough. Any of these will make exploring Mars an unpleasant, if not impossible, experience. It must be pointed out that radiation will penetrate anything other than lead.

Months or years after exposure, a person may experience cataracts, skin damage, cancer, genetic damage, death of non-regenerative cells or tissues, damage to the central nervous system, infertility, or a weakening of the immune system. 

Recent robotic missions on Mars suggest that the outlook for a crewed mission will be fatal for all of them. Previous Moon missions showed that lunar soil has been ground into fine, sharp-edged grains that cling to just about everything, thanks to bombardment from micrometeorites and charged particles from the sun. Although Martian dust has been somewhat protected by a thin atmosphere, it has been blowing around for 3.5 billion years, and that has worn down the particles into very small, round grains. The grains aren’t sharp, but constant roiling around the planet has probably given Mars dust a significant static charge which could make them sticky. This means that they will stick to the suits when the astronauts  enter the protected sheltered living spaces. The fear is that since the dust cannot easily be cleaned from suits, it will get into astronauts’ living quarters, even if they return via the airlocks. The problems arise when the astronauts are getting in and out of these suits. Normally this is done inside the protected habitat but if dust were to stick to the suit, this could then be brought inside. This was an issue first discovered during the Apollo program; the lunar astronauts brought lunar dust back into the capsule with them. 

 There is however, a greater fear that when they remove their suits, they will eventually die. Dust wafting inside the astronauts’ quarters will eventually clog air filters, water purifiers and other critical instruments. Fine-grained silicates found on Mars could create damaging chemicals when they react with water in the lungs.  However, there is an even worse danger from the dust.  NASA's Viking Mars landers in 1976 measured signatures of perchlorates, in the form of chlorinated hydrocarbons. Other U.S. Mars robots such as the Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity detected elemental chlorine. Moreover, orbital measurements taken by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft show that chlorine is globally distributed. Some material on Mars may be carcinogenic (known to cause cancer), and other particles might cause lung conditions like silicosis (respiratory disease) caused by breathing in silicants. The Curiosity lander has found gypsum on the red planet. This could result in Martian astronauts developing their own variant of ‘black lung’, an old mining illness caused by the build up of certain chemicals in the lungs. A breakdown of lung capacity could prove catastrophic in already strenuous conditions.

Indications of the existence of perchlorates were first discovered by NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander in 2008. Perchlorate has been linked to its negative influence on the thyroid gland This finding added evidence that the odd chemistry results discovered by the 1970′s Viking landers may have also been caused by perchlorates.

The real problem facing the astronauts is static electricity. On Earth, walking across a carpet can produce enough charge to disable sensitive electronics. On Mars, there is no surface water, so there is no natural grounding mechanism. As a result, astronauts will develop huge differences in electrical charges relative to their equipment. This might produce an arc between the astronaut's space suit and equipment, meaning potential damage to sensitive instruments or the suit itself.

The gravity on Mars is 35% that of Earth's, and the gravity available during the deep-space mission to get to Mars will be 0% of Earth's. We still don't understand the full effects of long-term zero and microgravity on astronauts; however, we do know that short-term exposure to zero gravity results in muscle deterioration (at rates of up to 5% a week), bone-loss (up to 60% can be lost), loss of blood volume, heart atrophy, and extreme light-headedness. 

Bone-loss is a more long-term, but still a serious problem. Studies have shown that a three-to four-month stint in space may require two or three years of recovery time on Earth for the astronaut's bones, but on Mars, no-one will recover at all.                                                                                                

Those fools chosen for the trip will die on Mars much sooner than they think and their deaths will be slow and in agony. Further, it is highly unlikely that anyone else will be stupid enough to get anywhere close to Mars’s surface knowing that death will await them if they plan to stay there for any length of time. The planet alas will never be Earth number two.    

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