Just under a year ago, GFR reported on a four-month simulated Mars mission taking place in Hawaii, which focused primarily on feeding astronauts decent food for their long-term stays on other planets. Hi-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation) researchers are now testing various kinds of extra vehicular activities, comparing the difference between 3D-printed tools and conventional instruments, devising better and safer astronaut training and preparation methods, identifying techniques for distinguishing different volcanic minerals on Mars, growing plants under different wavelengths, and refining methods of converting trash to gas, as well as studying psychological and emotional challenges and adjustments to such a taxing mission.
The Opportunity and Curiosity rovers are triumphs for NASA, but why should the space agency rest on its laurels? Even though both rovers are rolling around on the Red Planet, NASA is hard at work on other vehicles for future Martian exploration, particularly spacecraft to deliver payloads. Their efforts are currently focused on supersonic parachutes and inflatable saucers to help slow and gently deposit cargo on the planet’s surface.
The technologies are a part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project. As we continue to explore Mars, and other planets, we’ll need a way to transport larger loads. Spacecraft move at incredibly high speeds through the Martian atmosphere, so they need to decelerate quickly and safely, allow for a soft landing for whatever they’re carrying. Previous missions, such as the one that delivered Curiosity, have relied on the Viking parachute, which NASA has used since 1976. But a simple parachute doesn’t generate enough drag for the heavier equipment that future endeavors will need, especially if humans do try to colonize Mars.
NASA’s next manned spacecraft — its first new model in 40 years — is called the Orion, or “Apollo on steroids.” Presuming that it passes the various stages of unmanned flight tests, this may be the spacecraft that brings humans to Mars or to the asteroid belt for mining. To put it mildly, there are a lot of eggs in Orion’s basket, so much so that not even the government shutdown halted work on the craft. Even Universe Today dubbed 2014 “the Year of Orion.” Despite its importance, there are higher-priority matters, such as national security. Orion’s first exploration flight test, due to take place in September, has been pushed back to allow the U.S. Air Force to launch two Space Situational Awareness satellites.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the Dutch nonprofit Mars One is aiming to start sending humans to the Red Planet in 2024. The field of over 200,000 aspiring pioneers has been whittled down to just over 1,000. All of these applicants are ostensibly ready to leave their Earthly lives behind. Among many other aspects, Mars One has a particularly interesting funding plan. Aside from donations, it plans to fund this ambitious project by turning the whole thing, application process and all, into a reality television show. In this day and age, is this really surprising? Now, Mars One will join forces with Lionsgate TV and they’re about to start shopping the show to networks.
After initially denying the rumors, founder Bas Lansdorp says that Mars One is “eagerly awaiting the contract” with Lionsgate, and will “make a more detailed announcement when a contract is signed.” Despite the lack of verified details, plenty of information is surfacing on the old interwebs, including an interesting news bit that Lionsgate will start a casting search of its own, eventually merging with what Mars One has already started. This seems a bit confusing. Does this mean starting from scratch, rather than looking back over the Mars One applicants? The earlier applicants submited videos in which they discussed why they want to go to Mars and what qualifications they bring. Would Lionsgate applicants do the same? What qualifications are necessary for a reality television contestant other than a propensity for drama? Bear in mind that the shuttle ride to Mars will take 7-8 months. If there are any drama queens in four person groups, they’re all liable to kill each other, or themselves, long before they even arrive.
Mars One, the Dutch nonprofit that plans to send colonists on a one-way trip to Mars in 2024, narrowed down a field of over 200,000 applicants to just over 1,000 at the end of last year. Those 1,000 applicants run the demographic gamut, from home country (applicants hail from 107 countries, including the US, India, China, Brazil, UK, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, and more) to education to age. And, one could assume, in terms of religion. Recently, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments (GAIAE), an organization within the United Arab Emirates whose mission is to enhance religious and social awareness, has urged Muslims not to participate in the Mars One mission.
GAIAE issued a fatwa, an official judgment on an issue concerning Islamic law, against Muslims traveling to Mars. GAIAE employs scholars whose job it is to tackle such issues and deliver a ruling, and they said, “It is not permissible to travel to Mars and never to return if there is no life on Mars. The chances of dying are higher than living.” That being their stance, a manned mission to Mars is akin to a suicide mission, and suicide violates Islamic principles.