If we are to survive as a species, we humans must, at some point, travel out into space beyond the Earth and, in time, to the stars themselves. Unfortunately, we are essentially Earth-bound in 2013 with plans for visiting other worlds still on the drawing boards. However, while a trip to Mars is (if all goes according to schedule), nearly 2 decades away, some are already attempting to understand what such an undertaking would mean by on-Earth simulation.
Enter the Mars Arctic 365 (MA 365) mission.
The brainchild of the Mars Society, the MA 365 Project seeks to simulate a trip to Mars by isolating ‘astronauts’ in a tiny structure reminiscent of a space ship that is located in Arctic. As far as the ‘crew’ is concerned, they might as well be on their way to Mars as they will not have face-to-face contact with another human (besides their ‘crewmates’)for a year, with the only communication being allowed coming via electronics, which is how things would be in a real trip to the Red Planet.
For mission planners, the human element as well as the exploration and scientific activities the crew will perform on a real trip to the Red Planet are of especially interest.
Think about it: traveling to Mars will take, at best, around 7 months. In comparison, the 3-day trip to the Moon taken by the Apollo astronauts is a Sunday drive. Needless to say, being crammed in such a tiny space with other people can take a major toll on one’s mental well-being. Like privacy and alone time? Well, forget about ever going to Mars. For the brains behind the simulation, seeing how people react to not only being in a confined space for a year but also having to share the limited, inescapable space with others can go a long way in determining the feasibility of a long-term space mission which could very well last 500 days (about 16.5 months) total for the round trip.
After all, the last thing a mission to Mars needs is an astronaut who’s gone bonkers.
Additionally, the Mars Society plans to put a lot of emphasis on the activities the crew will undertake during their ‘mission,’ which will include a wide range of both exploration and scientific experiments.
One problem, though: the funding isn’t even finalized. Right now, the Mars Society is seeking $50,000 from supporters over the next 3 weeks in order to just get equipment to and retrofit the outpost for a year-long mission, Previously, the Society had used the structure for much shorter, 1-2 month tests. If the money is raised, the plan, whose bill would come to just over $1.3 million, would then enter its next phases.
Needless to say, this will be an interesting undertaking should the funding appear.
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