Next, I turned my attention to probably the greatest source I stumbled upon during my relatively light research for this paper. I discovered an article entitled, “Revised Scenario for Human Missions to Mars” written by Jean Marc Salotti. As mentioned in this paper, Mars Direct advocates the idea of sending the recovery vehicle to Mars first, and then everything else. Salotti addresses this notion in depth, and also provides what he (and his team) think is a better scenario. The specifics are rather boring and not easily summarized here, but suffice it to say that his team believes they have a better plan, which also minimizes risks by providing redundancies every step of the way (286). What was so moving about this paper is that it was written with a tone that doesn’t hide that he fully expects a successful manned journey to Mars—and soon.
The journey nearing an end, I found an article which seemed a fitting punctuation mark with which to conclude the paper, “Can Humans Live on Mars?” by Ken Kremer. The short answer is “Yes”. Kremer focuses his question and subsequent answer specifically on radiation levels. For the lay reader, the article reveals that astronauts today already operate within preset radiation exposure limits (Kremer). He goes on to conclude that all the data argues that Mars’ thin atmosphere actually reduces the radiation exposure an astronaut would encounter when compared to current trips to the International Space Station (Kremer). This is encouraging news. There are, of course, still many uncertainties, but the overall point is that settling Planet Mars, as Mars One intends on doing, seems to be more than a joke. While the details are being fine-tuned, it is clear that prominent members of the larger space exploration community argue that humanity possesses the ability to fly to and land on Mars. Furthermore it seems that humans should be able to live for at least a short time without ill effect.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This goal to inhabit Mars in 2023 is achievable and realistic. More than the research this paper reviews, I know this to be true because I am a member of the human race. I know this to be true because I possess the innately human quality intuition. I know this to be true because when backed by the history of human experience and achievement, intuition proves itself accurate. The human race is a super-organism that does not give-up. When we direct our attention towards manifesting an idea, the rest is history.
Kremer, Ken. “Can Humans Live on Mars?” Universe Today RSS. N.p., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. <http://www.universetoday.com/98509/can-humans-live-on-mars/>.
Salotti, Jean Marc. “Revised Scenario For Human Missions To Mars.” Acta Astronautica 81.1 (2012): 273-287. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Sept. 2013.
So far my research had been exclusively American. I decided I needed to change it up a bit, so I looked to discover what the motherland had to say. My most relevant findings weren’t about the future, but the past. BBC News’ Race to Mars webpage had a nice timeline which emphasized most that humans hit Mars with man-made materials in 1971 and 1972. Educating uninitiated space junkies, the site reveals that starting back in 1965 humans were taking close-up pictures of the surface from orbiting satellites. This was exciting and a good sign for two reasons. First, from taking close-up pictures to landing–albeit crash landing–took less than a decade. Second, Mars One has given itself a decade and there are rovers right now on Mars. Remember Mars One’s claim…they’re only going to use existing technology. That was becoming more and more believable as my research continued. Moreover, 10 years to prepare was beginning to sound more like 10 years to perfect the plan.
Scrolling down to my Works Cited page, I decided to see what James Bell III had to say. In an extremely impressive article called, “The Search for Habitable Worlds: Planetary Exploration in the 21St Century,” Bell plainly and eloquently explains the situation. The situation is that Mars is definitely mankind’s chosen priority at the moment (9). Before going further, I need to clear the air and acknowledge that Bell never does discuss placing humans on any of the once habitable or possibly habitable worlds; instead he emphasizes the current strategy slogan adopted by NASA is “flyby, orbit, land, rove, and return” (9). One particular article highlight is that it sounds like Mars likely had water at one point, but it is difficult or impossible for water to remain stable on the surface today because of the lack of atmosphere (12). So, this article then is a mixed bag for my quest. This writer, Bell, seems to be a very respectable voice in the community, but he doesn’t mention settling people on Mars. However, he does an excellent job of delineating that humankind is in the “third great Age of Exploration” as historian and author Stephen Pyne has labeled it (8). As always, I take this to be a great indicator that we are moving quickly and will soon be living on Mars. I take this to be a great indicator because the first two ages of exploration (the first personified by Columbus; the second, Lewis and Clark) were successful. Among the many things humans, as a group, seem to be skilled at, exploring tops the list–and I see no reason for this skill to have perished simply because we’ve reached the end of the Earth.
Bell III, James F. “The Search for Habitable Worlds: Planetary Exploration in the 21St Century.” Daedalus 141.3 (2012): 8. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 5 Sept. 2013.
BBC News. BBC, 04 Feb. 2008. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2003/race_for_mars/default.stm>.
Next, I stumbled upon a more scholarly article written by Mehdi Lali. In “Analysis and Design of a Human Spaceflight to Mars, Europa, and Titan,” Mehdi Lali discusses why these three un-earthly bodies are the best choice for manned exploration and when the best time to do it will be. He also incorporates some graphics which illustrate several gee-whiz techniques which will make the trip quicker and safer. He begins the article by clarifying that, “Among the terrestrial (rocky) planets, only Mars can potentially be host to humans” (557). As space exploration isn’t limited to planets he further discusses options like Europa and Titan which are moons of outer planets. After he presents his ideas and methodology he concludes, “A rare launch-window opportunity is conceived to occur in 2078, in which these sites i.e., Mars, Europa and Titan will be aligned in such a way that they can be visited in one mission taking advantage of the gravity assists from Mars and Jupiter” (563). Sign me up. Obviously, the year 2078 is quite a bit later than 2023; likewise, the specifics that Mr. Lali recommends for Mars exploration are quite a bit different from Mars One’s plans. This second source then really only conveyed to me that the area of manned space exploration is not very stable. It seems that depending on a set of almost unlimited factors, different scientists perceive different capabilities. Overall, my takeaway is that Lali’s article is clearly not about settling Mars, so its conclusions aren’t very relevant to my question. I have to admit that an article like Mr. Lali’s was kind of draining. It had too much specific data (read: numbers), and most of it went way over my head. That’s okay. With every failure comes a learning opportunity. I learned that I needed to focus my research a little narrower—easy enough.
What I found next was an article called, “How To…Land a Human on Mars.” Piers Bizony writes a much more digestible article explaining…how to land a human on Mars. It seems Mars One isn’t the only game in town. Since the early 1990s something called Mars Direct has been floating a six step plan to explore Mars in person. Essentially, the plan is to send the recovery vehicle first (empty), then gear, then people, then recover everyone; after which they would rinse’n’repeat (Bizony 42). While this wasn’t the plan Mars One had, it was still an encouraging bit of information. Making it even more intriguing, was that it claimed that the technology to create fuel and water on Mars already exists (Bizony 41). At this point in the project I decided to close the laptop and pack my “go” bag.
Bizony, Piers. “How To… …Land A Human On Mars.” Engineering & Technology (17509637) 8.1 (2013): 40-42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Sept. 2013.
Lali, Mehdi. “Analysis And Design Of A Human Spaceflight To Mars, Europa, And Titan.” AIP Conference Proceedings 1208.1 (2010): 557-565. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5
The question remains: “Are humans really going to be living on Mars in 2023?” To begin my research, I found an editorial written by former moon-walker himself Buzz Aldrin. This year he wrote that notions of going back to the moon should be discarded in favor of exploring Mars; and he said, “Going to Mars means staying on Mars…” (Aldrin). Well, for me, that about settled it; we’re going to Mars. Okay, maybe it didn’t settle anything, but I liked that he agreed with the requirement that the trip be one way. I was also excited to see that an authority on the subject is clearly as excited as I am about this trip. Why? Because while Buzz Aldrin clearly passed muster regarding astronaut-hood, I really don’t know how credible he is regarding the specifics of space exploration. But here’s the thing–I don’t care. His credibility, for me, comes from the fact that he went. And having went, he recommends going farther. Imagine my elation then, being one source into this paper and already having one reassurance that 2023 will be the year of the Red Planet. Nice!
Aldrin, Buzz. “The Call of Mars.” The New York Times. (June 14, 2013 Friday): 734 words.
Of course, that it takes 9-months to get there means I won’t actually arrive until 2023. The fact remains, I’m going. Back in 2011 Mars One announced its purpose. The Mars One home page reads, “The Mars One Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023.” As far as a mission statement or S.M.A.R.T. goal, they don’t get much better or simpler than that. Precisely that kind of focus will ensure achievement of the mission.
For me, the idea became a reality when I first heard the quote, “What is possible is done; what is impossible will be done.” The quote is diluted enough to not really be associated with any one person, and more important than who said it is the idea it expresses–that being, everything is first an idea, even if only an impossible idea. Growing up in the 20th century surrounded by pop culture that included “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” it is more than clear that humans as a group believe we’ll be zipping around the universe in the future. What I didn’t expect, but have now come to believe, is that it will begin during my lifetime…and could be me.
Placing all my fever-pitched excitement aside, I can’t deny that there is a nagging voice in my head that says, “Nobody is going anywhere.” Now Mars-One assures me that the reasons they are going to succeed include all the technology already exists, they’re eliminating the return trip (which was probably the single largest hindrance to past Mars plans), and they will be able to privately fund the project by giving the people what they want—a front row seat to the whole thing via some amalgamation of reality TV programming. This all still sounded crazy to me until they pointed out the ad revenue the last Olympics generated was nearly enough to fund this mission. And that was a recurring entertainment event. Settling humankind on Mars will be a first-time-ever event, and will change the nature of human existence.
Part 2 Monday…