SpaceX CEO Elon Musk remains “highly confident” that he will land humans on Mars by 2026. Science journalist Shannon Stirone who wrote an Atlantic article titled “Mars is a Hellhole,” believes that Elon Musk “is absolutely out into space.”
And that his “unrealistic” plans for a Mars colony are an exercise in futility. So she outlines all the roadblocks and describes all the ways the red planet can kill people. And many experts agree.
Launch Windows and Starship Explosions
In December 2020 Musk set a timeline in two-year milestones. The milestones have to be roughly every two years to coincide with the Red Planet’s orbit with the Earth. If astronauts travel to Mars, they’ll go much farther into space than any human has gone before. Any Martian expeditions depend on that launch window.
Hitting the launch window just right makes all the difference. And if it’s missed it will be two more years till they can try again.
SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing spacecraft, Starship, recently launched its tenth prototype, SN10 for the 10th test flight. The Starship shot up 6 miles then returned to a smooth landing. A few minutes later it exploded.
The mission depends on getting the Starship up into space and landing without exploding.
Dangerous for Humans
Elon Musk says it will take only two more years for SpaceX to fly a cargo and equipment drop to Mars. The Starship design can comfortably take up to 100 people to Mars or anywhere, for that matter. And Musk believes SpaceX will be flying passengers to the Red Planet as early as 2026.
Stirone is warning that when people get to Mars it might be a flight of no return.
“You can choose between your blood boiling, you know, fizzing up like a can of soda, dying from having your muscles deteriorate, freezing to death, you name it, you have a lot of options,” Stirone claims that there are many ways a human can die on Mars.
On a mission to Mars, NASA’s Human Research Program has anticipated five critical dangers to the human crew. That program is still developing best practices, technologies, and methods to safely enable human space travel.
Space-traveling astronauts would be exposed to about 10 times the radiation they would on earth. And space radiation is more deadly and damaging than what we have on Earth.
In deep space, outside of Earth’s protective atmosphere, radiation increases the risk of cancer and damages the central nervous system, affecting motor function, cognitive function, and behavior, NASA’s Human Research Program said. Such high levels of exposure cause severe stomach issues, anorexia, cataracts, fatigue, cataracts, cardiac and circulatory diseases.
Space-suits and gear must be designed to keep people safe from space radiation.
Isolation and Confinement
When isolated and confined to small spaces for long periods of time, people develop behavioral issues.
Potential Mars colonists and crews will be traveling farther and longer than anyone ever has before. Scientists expect that there will be issues with cognition, depression, sleep disorders, morale. Future space travels may develop emotional problems, physical illnesses, and anger issues.
These flights require lots of preparation and can put people at-risk.
Distance and Gravity
Mars is 140 million miles from the Earth. If you run out of supplies you’re in trouble. There is no way to re-supply. Even being able to get the right nutrition is difficult. Meal planning is a vital part of the mission. And it’s a good idea to have some medical equipment, medications, and a trained med-staff on-board.
Some gravity fields can be as deadly as space radiation.
Once a space traveler leaves Earth’s gravity field, they will experience weightlessness for the six-month journey in deep space to Mars.
The body has to adjust to the changes. Hand-eye coordination, fine motor skill, balance, and simple mobility are a problem. Bones, muscles, and the heart are also impacted. The crew populates a Mars colony will need to work, live, and explore all three gravity fields during the journey.
The bottom line is that space is a hostile environment for humans. And the spacesuits and spacecraft need to be perfect to keep humans alive on Mars.
Air quality, temperature, and food supply all must be constantly monitored to make sure people are comfortable and healthy. Life in space is hard on the immune system.
“The important thing is that we establish Mars as a self-sustaining civilization,” Musk told CNET. He still has confidence that human innovation will get us to Mars and back safely.
On the other hand, Stirone told CNBC that “The cosmos may be breathtakingly beautiful, but it can also be deadly to human explorers.”
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