After receiving many comments from my article, “Mars One: Exciting Adventure or Hoax?“, and exploring many issues of any such undertaking as well as the specifics of Mars One, I have decided that the conversation has become increasingly technical and therefore less interesting to our readers. In order to make our conversation more interesting and to bring more people into the conversation, I am presenting a series of episodes in a fictional future in which the first permanent settlers will arrive on Mars. While Mars One and our discussion have generated many of the ideas, this series does not claim to have a relation to any specific Mars settlement program. It just explores the issues involved in such a venture.
For the purposes of making the exposition and discussion more real, I will name the first four humans to arrive on Mars: Aleka (Hawaiian female: aka Allie) is the flight-trained captain, Balasubramian (Indian male: Balu for short and Bob among the crew) has the crucial survival role of botanist, Chun (Chinese female: aka Chunnie) functions as the engineer, and Dawit (Ethiopian male: everyone just calls him Dave) is the mission communicator. For the purposes of having a broad gene pool, the early settlers have genetic roots that include a worldwide geographical scope of origins.
I’d like to encourage you all to participate. Each chapter will end with a problem that must be solved. I am interested in seeing ideas different from the ones I imagine and may rewrite future chapters if better answers are submitted. If you are a science teacher at any level, please consider discussing these issues in your classes. We’re nearing the end of the school year now, and this sort of discussion may work nicely with the end-of-year mentality that you encounter. A fun, open discussion can make science come alive for students. Use NASA images to liven things up. -Harry E. Keller
s the Google Mars shuttle continues its weeks-long deceleration toward its incredible destination, the crew of four busily checks the instruments on the attached Citigroup crew module where they have lived and worked for four months. They are so involved in monitoring not only their own module but also the Royal Dutch Shell supply module that they momentarily forget they’re about to become the first humans ever to set foot on another planet. The shuttle holds the two attached modules like a parent carrying twins in both arms. The configuration of shuttle and two landing modules may look awkward but creates no impediment to travel in the vacuum of space.
Four years of training guarantee that the anxious crew all know their roles in this landing precisely. The captain, Aleka (Allie), is the only flight-trained pilot on the mission, but all of them have spent countless hours in the landing simulator and can take over if necessary. Redundancy has been the watchword of the Mars mission from the very beginning.
For the landing at Amazon base, however, there could be only one crew module. Everything depends on its successful entry into the absurdly thin Mars air, about 1% of the density of that on Earth and containing 95% carbon dioxide, followed by the powered descent to the surface. Ordinary chemical rockets slow the landers as they approach the surface where the gravity is 38% of that of Earth. While the low gravity means that less fuel is required for descent, it still is strong enough to kill everyone if the landing module crashes. Every element from the heat shield and parachute to the landing engines must function perfectly for a safe landing. Read more »