Anastasia Velikovskaya ‘17
Are you saddened by the air pollution, energy depletion, rain forest destruction, and the other thousand problems that characterize Earth? Good news! You can live on Mars instead. The catch? You can never come back.
The thought of living on Mars has traditionally been found only in the imaginations of 5 year olds and 40 year old engineers at NASA, but now with 200,000 people applying to live on Mars, the idea of interplanetary migration has become much more widely accepted.
NASA has been thinking of the journey to colonize Mars since 2010, but before it could move forward with its plans, NASA wanted to test the mental toll of isolation on humans. As a result, NASA decided to create a yearlong mock Mars mission in 2014.
On August 28th, 2014, six brave scientists left the comforts of civilization and successfully disconnected themselves from Starbucks and Instagram for a full year, somewhat of an impossible task for modern teenagers. In the confines of a 36-foot-wide and 20-foot-high solar-powered dome in a remote island of Hawaii, the six scientists had to live together for 365 days without having face-to-face contact with any humans outside of the dome, fresh air, fresh food, or privacy. The team, consisting of three men and three women, had their own small rooms which included a sleeping cot and a desk. They spent their days eating food like powdered cheese and canned tuna, and only went outside if dressed in a spacesuit.
So who would want to spend their year like this, living in the middle of nowhere without the comforts of society? Crew member Sheyna Gifford described the team as “six people who want to change the world by making it possible for people to leave it at will.”
The isolation experiment successfully ended in 2015. The results?
Kim Binsted, a NASA investigator, said that conflicts did arise and she said she could not go into detail about the situation without breaching confidentiality of the crew. Binsted stated, “I think one of the lessons is that you really can’t prevent interpersonal conflicts. It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people.”
Crew member Jocelyn Dunn said she came to love the inside jokes among the crew, doing daily workouts, and learning to cook things like bagels and pizza dough with the ingredients on hand. On her blog, Dunn stated, “I guess I got a taste of marriage, albeit a hexagon of relationships rather than a dyad.”
With the isolation experiment over, plans for the actual expedition has continued to move forward. Mars One announced in 2013 that the first pioneers could land on Mars in 2025, and Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said that more than 200,000 people have signed up to be prospective astronauts. According to Mars One, the technology for a return flight doesn’t exist and having a one-way trip greatly reduces costs. Lansdorp also mentioned that after the first humans arrive in 2025, the plan is to send additional crews every two years. Right now, the idea is to send crews of four, but eventually bigger vehicles may become available to transport more people.
Once the members land on Mars, they will face “a lonely life of danger, subsisting for extended periods on dried and canned food. They will get some of their water by recycling their urine.”
“”There will be emergencies and deaths,” Lansdorp said,” We need to make sure that crew members can continue without those people…Their psychological skills will be the main selection criteria we will use”.
Although this is a dangerous and serious mission, who knows! Maybe your name will appear in the history textbooks years later as one of the first people on Mars!