Destination: Mars, what we've learnt

All month The Naked Scientists have been on a mission to Mars but what have we learnt?
27 October 2015

Interview with 

Sue Nelson, Libby Jackson, UK Space Agency, Stanley G. Love, NASA, Dr Paul Meacham, Airbus Defense, David Rothery, Open University, Tony Milligan, King's College London


Antares Rocket Test Launch


In the last three programmes we've been considering the prospects of manned Space rocketmissions to Mars. We've looked at what it takes to be an astronaut, how to get people across interplanetary space, and last week we heard how we might go about building a base on the Red Planet. Connie Orbach takes us through what we've learnt.

Connie - Here at the Naked Scientists, we've been on a trip - destination Mars. We've learned what it takes to be an astronaut from stomach churning training...

Sue - I expect I look like a St Bernard dog. I can feel my hands really pressurised. It's difficult to lift my hands. That feels like you've done the biggest roller coaster ride ever.

Connie - To the hundreds of silent workers who put our heroes in space.

Libby - You've got the engineers who design these things. There are the people who built it, there the medics, there are doctors, there are the lawyers, there are the people like myself looking after the education programme. The list is truly endless.

Connie - Even the bravest astronaut may still quake in their boots when they hear the journey conditions.

Graihagh - Two weeks without a shower?

Stanley - Well, imagine turning off the gravity and turning on the shower. Water would go flying everywhere. So, if you want to take a bath, it's going to be a sponge bath.

Connie - Oh, and all the other hazards.

Paul - Probably, the main consideration is the radiation environment. We're leaving the protection of the Earth's atmosphere and you are then subject to the full force of solar wind and cosmic radiation. We're well aware of the effects of radiation on the human body. It does not do nice things and you've got to fly through that for 9 months.

Connie - Once there, there's a whole host of new problems especially if you want to stay for a while.

David - If we want to survive, we go somewhere that's warm and cosy and has resources. If you want to go somewhere warm, that's rather incompatible with finding somewhere where there's accessible ice if you want water.

Connie - Finally, if we've worked out all of that, we're going to have to consider the long term impacts of settling on Mars.

Tony - Whereas it may be the case that the initial settlers could come back to Earth if things go badly. For those born on Mars, it's extremely unlikely that their physiology could cope with a return to Earth. Their bone density wouldn't be right for it. so, we have to get this  right.

Connie - Well, after all that and a whole trip to Mars, we realised we've forgotten to ask one big question... should we even be going at all? What do you think? When we asked this question on Facebook, Michael McLaughlin made a good point...

Michael - Robotic exploration is safer, less costly, returns amazing science and image results.

Connie - So, why not just stick with robots?


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