Humans on Mars
(Inside Science) -- NASA’s Rover Perseverance successfully landed on Mars on Feb. 18. The mission, called Mars 2020 and launched from U.S. soil in July 2020, is tasked with looking for signs of ancient life, collecting rock and soil samples, and exploring the use of technology for future robotic and human exploration.
Researchers in Hawaii have already been working on projects to learn what would be necessary for humans to survive a long trip to Mars and maybe even live there someday.
Have you ever dreamed about visiting or even living on another planet?
Kim Binsted said, "I feel that the urge to explore space is so essential."
"So, according to the current timeline, humans on Mars is about 20 years in the future. A cynic would say that Mars has been 20 years in the future for the past 40 years. However, NASA right now is actively working on it, actively building the ships that will take us there, working on the medical and psychological and engineering problems that could stop us from getting there. Work is being done."
Kim Binsted is the principal investigator at the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation program, also known as HI-SEAS. Researchers at HI-SEAS have already ran six test missions between 2013 and 2018, and there are plans for more in the near future.
The goal is to figure out what's necessary for humans to survive the long trip to Mars, and maybe even live on it. So, why Mars?
Binsted said, "Of all the planets in our solar system, Mars is most similar to Earth. They're close in size, they're close relatively in distance to the Sun. The Earth is constantly being threatened by asteroids, by things that humans do, by problems we haven't discovered yet. And right now as far as we know, all of the life in the universe is on this one planet, and that's a pretty big egg in a small basket. So, what we like to do is to expand, to settle other worlds, to make sure that if something terrible were to happen to Earth, that life would have a chance to continue elsewhere, and that's a good reason to go to Mars as well."
Scientists working on the HI-SEAS project also collected data for testing equipment, software and protocols for future trips to Mars.
"So, for example we looked at how lighting levels affect sleep patterns in the habitat. We've looked at plant growth systems. We've had a study looking at microbial load on the various surfaces in the habitat. We had a study look at antimicrobial exercise wear. So, in that case the crew had a bunch of sets of exercise wear that had been treated in different ways to reduce the number of microbes as they get dirty over time. And they had to evaluate those for comfort and also for how well they worked," said Binsted.
But the big question … what did they learn?
"One of the things we found is that in any group of people no matter how well selected, well trained, no matter how stable they are as individuals, there's going to be conflict. Now the source of those conflict can vary wildly, but there is going to be conflict. There's no crew you can pick that will avoid that. What the trick is, is to pick a crew and to help a crew respond to that conflict well. So, you want a resilient crew. A resilient crew can have a conflict, sort it out, and return to a high-performing level very quickly. Whereas, a less resilient crew, that conflict will kind of keep nagging at them and keep recurring over the course of the mission," said Binsted.
Teamwork will be crucial for anyone planning to head to Mars. But Binstead hopes this research doesn't stop at the red planet.
"The discovery of life anywhere else in the universe would be one of the biggest not just scientific but game-changing discoveries that humanity has ever made," concluded Binsted.