A mission to Mars: fantasy or realistic possibilty?

Every now and again one or more of Nasa, the Esa (European Space Agency), the Russians or the Chinese bring up the idea of a manned mission to Mars. Just how realistic is such a claim with our present technology? Is it just public relations bluster?

The ingredients for a successful human mission to the red planet would include a crew,  a vehicle, the journey and the mars landing and excursion. That might sound a little obvious, what isn’t is if each of them is do-able.

The crew is not a problem-there are enough qualified people who are prepared to brave the year or more total journey time (it’s about 6 months each way).

The vehicle is another ball game:

  • It would have to be a lot bigger than the space shuttle
  • It would need to store or provide over a years worth of food and water, be able to process human waste effectively and maintain a constant air supply
  • Part of the ship would need to spin-to provide a simulated 1g of gravity. Weightlessness is damaging to the human body (even with effective exercise routines) a year of zero gravity would be too damaging to the crew to be an option.
  • You would need a power source for the vehicle that would enable it to get there and back and shield it from solar radiation

That’s a tall order for a vehicle-I don’t know if we have the technology to do that yet? Please leave a comment if you do.

The total journey is around a year (approx 14 months). During that time the ship would need protection from harmful solar radiation, otherwise the crew die from radiation exposure. Our planet does it with a magnetic field-I don’t know if we have the technology to surround a ship (or a part of it at least) with a protective magnetic field.

At least one member of the crew would need to be a doctor and the ship would need basic medical facilities. it’s going to be a big ship.

The landing and excursion is well within our technological abilities, however it’s the solar radiation that causes problems again. Mars has a very thin atmosphere and a very weak magnetic field, how you would protect people on the surface is a difficult one.

So there you have it: the crew is not a problem, the ship sounds like a serious technical challenge, the journey is a problem due to radiation the same with the landing and excursion.

I would have to conclude that with our present technology we couldn’t land a human mission on Mars.


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