Science to Share

Our Life on Mars

To Mars in 3 not so Easy Stepts

On May 31 of this year, the “Crew Dragon” docked with the ISS. For the first time in history, people had been launched into space in a rocket belonging to a company, not a government. The Crew Dragon is owned by SpaceX, while the astronauts belong to NASA. SpaceX has shown with this that they can bring people safely to space. In the future, they will certainly bring their own astronauts into space as well. Like NASA, SpaceX has the plan to bring people to Mars.

SpaceX has now brought humans safely to space for the first time. Now that SpaceX has shown that they can do this, they want to send their own astronauts into space soon. The ultimate goal of both SpaceX and NASA is to bring their astronauts to Mars. SpaceX says it will do this in 2024, NASA in 2033. Sounds good right? Aerospace expert and founder of the Eye on Orbit organization, Erik Laan, says no. He thinks 2043 is a more realistic goal. He also expects SpaceX and NASA cannot do this alone. They will need help from each other and from other countries.
Traveling to Mars can therefore take a while. Enough time for a new generation to make the journey. But why is it taking so long? What needs to happen before we have the first human on Mars?

Money and Time
The biggest problem at the moment is not our technology, but money. We can go to Mars with the technology we have now, the problem is that it is extremely expensive, the first trip to the moon alone cost $ 25 billion. It needs a new missile to be made that can take people there. And possibly also a rocket to bring them back. NASA does not want to leave their people behind on Mars. That is extra difficult, so there is also a chance that the astronauts will have to establish a permanent base on Mars. Then they wouldn’t come back.
A new landing gear must also be designed. Until now, we have only put robots on Mars. Erik Laan told us: “I think the biggest technological step that needs to be made is to be able to show that you can place a load of 20,000kg on the surface of Mars.” That’s about 20 times heavier than the heaviest rovers we’ve put on Mars to date. And before we are sure that we can do such a thing, we will be years and many billions of euros further. Only big countries like the US or China and big companies like SpaceX have so much money and time. Fortunately for the people who want to make the trip to Mars, the US and SpaceX are already planning to go to Mars. Those people will have to prepare well because NASA and SpaceX will not just take them along.

Lots of Sports and Studying
Suppose you would like to march. So you will have to be selected by organizations such as SpaceX, ESA or NASA to participate. What can you do now to qualify?
During the journey to Mars, and on Mars itself, there is much less gravity. As a result, your muscles and bones will gradually become weaker. That is why only people who already have very strong muscles and bones will be able to participate. Not only that, but it will be a while before there is a doctor’s office on Mars. So if you get sick, no one can come and help you. To prevent that as much as possible, you have to be completely healthy before you go to Mars. A lot of sports and a healthy diet is therefore not something you can avoid as a future astronaut.
Being in good physical shape is often not enough to become an astronaut. You will also have to keep learning. Because nobody can come to Mars to repair the radio, for example, you will have to be able to do everything yourself. So we are going to need experts who know a lot about their profession. We can look at the professions astronauts had before going into space for inspiration. Most astronauts are also doctors, engineers, biologists, astronomers, chemists, and even some military personnel. If you want to go to Mars, it is best to pursue one of these professions.

The journey
Finally accepted for the mission, the astronauts face one final challenge: the journey itself. The journey takes at least seven months. Possibly even longer if they first have to wait for new fuel in orbit. Going to Mars takes an incredible amount of fuel, and taking it all with you at once is going to be incredibly expensive. So it’s probably cheaper to send up another rocket that gives you extra fuel before you actually leave.
If you are really on your way, you will have to keep exercising a lot. You are weightless for seven months on the road. In order to prevent your bones from weakening too much, you will have to keep exercising a lot during the trip. You will probably be asked to perform all kinds of experiments along the way. There have never been people this far away from the earth and that gives a great opportunity to learn more about space. Fortunately, in addition to all the experiments and all the sports, you also have enough free time to play board games with the other astronauts, for example. In addition to all the work, it must also remain fun on the journey, if astronauts cannot stand each other out, it can also be extremely dangerous for the mission.

After seven months, the astronauts will then land. Then of course they are far from finished, there will be a lot to discover on Mars, which will certainly be the focus in the beginning. We also asked Erik Laan what kind of discoveries he hopes to see, to which he replied: “Then of course I call finding life, for example fossil life below the surface”. That would of course be a gigantic discovery. If you follow the steps in this article, you may well be there when that discovery is made.

Do you want to learn more about how to survive once you land on Mars? Then read on in the article “Welcome to Mars. Time to survive ” by Hessel Hoekstra.