Thursday, December 01, 2016
NASA and rocket vendors like SpaceX are beating publicity drums for travel to Mars. Never mind colonizing the moon. What America needs is an 18-month round trip to the red planet. The problem with the hype is that it ignores mental and physical challenges, such as astronauts losing vision during extended periods in space. The lack of gravity and exposure to electromagnetic rays do bad things to the body. NASA knows this but assumes it will be an engineering challenge to be overcome. Another issue is cost. It will take tens of billions of dollars to build a rocket, a capsule and deep space propulsion. Then it will take millions more to design and build suits suitable for excursions on Mars. Finally, NASA will have to figure out how to keep astronauts healthy physically and mentally. In light of these challenges one wonders why NASA isn't satisfied with the current robotic program that is examining Mars. Deep space is meant for machines that can go where humans can't. Hype doesn't change physical facts.