Potpourri of Stuff!
As i mentioned in one of my previous posts – ““, a manned mission is being planned to – 7 minutes of TerrorMars by the year 2033. Well, I know it sounds like fiction but we currently have the technology to pull it off. What we don’t have is money.
Let me get this straight. If you are asking me that if sufficient money is given, is it possible to go to Mars? The answer is YES. Like every other invention or development, there is a negative side to it. I’ll get to that later.
Almost anything is possible today. Automation is today’s hero. Everything is getting automated. Science and technology has grown to such a state that some people are telling that this is the last era of technological development but I think otherwise. There is much more to do. Digital roads everywhere, biometric chip or a card for every citizen, complete home automation available made available for an average man, better storage devices – small, larger capacity and faster speeds and a lot more. The truth is, technology will never die until mankind does.
So, let’s get back to Mars. Mars, besides Venus, can be referred to a twin of Mother Earth. “The “, they call it. There is also a movie with the same name. The atmosphere is red because the significant amount of ferrous oxide or rust in the atmosphere. This is because Earth and Mars share very similar features. Mars has the same land area that of Earth’s. Mars doesn’t have liquid water on the surface but there is frozen ice at the poles. The planet was warmer once in the past with rivers and possibly primitive life but today, it’s a dry,cold desert. Mars has 4 seasons like earth but each season lasts almost twice. A Martian year is approximately twice Earth’s year. A Martian day is only slightly longer (24hrs and 40mins) than Earth’s day. The axial tilt of Mars is 25.19° which is very close when compared to that of Earth’s (23°26). Mars has 2 moons – Phobos and Deimos meaning “Fear” and “Panic” respectively. These moons are very small and hence they are thought to be wandering asteroids that were captured by the gravity of Mars a long time ago.
The asteroid belt, which separates the inner and the outer planets is present in between Mars and Jupiter.
The fact is that Mars once had an atmosphere but it, unfortunately, did not have enough gravity to hold it back. Since Mars is much smaller than Earth, it has gravity of around 38% that of Earth’s. The surface pressure is 0.6 kPa while Earth’s is around 101 kPa. So, the pressure at the surface of Mars is approximately equal to the pressure at twice the height of Mt.Everest It is impossible for humans to survive on Mars without wearing pressure suits. The atmosphere of Mars consists of mostly Carbon dioxide, the gas which the humans exhale so the atmosphere would not be suitable for breathing. The atmosphere, does not contain an Ozone layer (because the atmosphere contains only 0.1 % oxygen) and hence there is no protection from the UV rays from the sun. This means CANCER and other deadly diseases. The DNA would be irreparably mutated because of this unfiltered sunlight touching the surface. May be this is the reason why there hasn’t been any life on the surface of Mars. There is a possibility for life existing under the surface (a few feet below the surface).
So, what does the crap above have to do with a manned mission to Mars? Let’s see. Watch this video. It shows an action plan for carrying out the journey to the Red Planet.
This is just one plan. There are many other plans proposed. We have a lot of facts to consider. A manned mission to another planet is not a walk in the park. The risk factors are way too high. The various factors that have to be considered are the physical profile, mental (psychological) profile and many others.
The journey to Mars will be scheduled to match a particular “Window” – A time when the journey can be made in the shortest possible time. The minimum time to travel to Mars is 6 to 7 months. The space vehicle should be equipped with technology to simulate gravity. Exposure to weightlessness for a long time can have a drastic impact on humans. The muscles start going waste, brain can be affected by being exposed to weightlessness for a long time, etc,. So the astronauts must exercise regularly. The food for the full length of the journey, water and all basic necessities should be considered. The space vehicle must have sufficient protection from UV rays, cosmic rays, gamma bursts especially while crossing the Van Allen radiation belt. The Van Allen radiation belt contains enough dosage of gamma rays to deliver fatal doses in seconds. All the factors including but not limited to the above must be considered.
The method of landing on Mars is the prime key, we don’t want astronauts to end up dead on the surface or with broken skulls and ribs – There are no hospitals on Mars yet. The landing of humans as shown in the Movie – The Red Planet is utterly stupid and irrational. I don’t think the method shown will be the best choice for landing humans on Mars. Check out the video below. It shows the landing scene in the movie.
Next, the issues or the needs after landing on Mars. The shelter on Mars would be the life saver. Mars is not a very human friendly place right now (may be it’ll be after terraforming. I’ll write a separate post on terraforming later). The human habitat must be filled with all the “human” needs – Oxygen, food, personal space, electronic gadgets for entertainment and the like. They need to regularly exercise on the surface too in order to avoid the wasting of muscles. The habitat must be a gravity simulated environment too. The equipments that provide power to the habitats must be extremely reliable because of the power in the habitat fails, its doomsday for the astronauts. The picture below shows a proposed concept of an artificial human habitat on Mars by NASA.
Humans can stay in the artificial habitat and work on Mars. They can collect samples, dig into the surface, perform tests for life, travel a small distance, get to know the landscape better, and what not. They must be able to contact their friends and family on Earth. It won’t be a real time exchange because of the distance. Since Mars is about 5 light minutes away from Earth, it takes 5 minutes for the data to reach earth and 5 minutes for the reply from earth to reach Mars. So, real time exchanges wouldn’t seem much “real”. Anyway, we can send video messages and then get a message back after sometime. Another problem for the astronauts on Mars is isolation from mankind. Considering that 4 astronauts are sent, they are completely alone. They must undergo rigorous psychological tests in order to stay in one piece.
I stumbled upon a website called Mars One which operates privately and is committed to send manned mission to Mars in the near future. They are confident that they have the resources to send man to Mars by 2023. Check the website out. It’s worth the time. They have this innovative concept called “One way ticket to Mars”. They are prepared to send people with various specialties in a crew of 4 once in 2 years but the “space travelers” must agree to stay indefinitely on Mars. They are correct because the return journey from Mars is quite expensive. We cannot afford to put man on Mars and bring him back to Earth in 2 years. We cannot afford that expenditure. Robert Zubrin, in his book “The Case for Mars” has proposed a plan to “create” fuel for the return journey from Mars and many other aspects of a manned mission to Mars. By making use of the Sabatier reaction, we might be able to create enough fuel for the return trip from Mars. We carry a small amount of Hydrogen from Earth and combine it with the abundantly available CO2 on Mars and we get Methane.
4H2 + CO2 –> CH4 + 2H2O
The water obtained as a by-product is then electrolyzed to produce Oxygen and Hydrogen. This Hydrogen can again be used to produce Methane. This process continues until enough Methane is obtained. This can significantly cut down the cost of the return fuel but it comes with a price. Hydrogen is extremely inflammable and very high precaution is to be taken while transporting Hydrogen gas.
So, that ‘s it guys. I have summarized what needs to be considered for a manned mission to Mars. There are many other aspects but these are the basic ones. Go through the links in the page and you’ll learn a lot more in Wikipedia. So, the idea of a manned mission to Mars is not a fiction anymore. It is reality. It is going to happen. Bon Voyage. 🙂 .