I am taking to calling the Mars One mission that is supposed to reach Mars in 2024, Death Watch 2024. It’s stated mission is to send 24 humans to Mars with no chance of coming back.
Recently Mars One announced its choices for the approximately 1000 possible astronauts. I read this article which features Parisian, Florence Porcel. I am taking this article at its word except for the line that calls the mission a “trial resettlement”, as if humans have been on Mars before.
Porcel says, “I have always felt a bit cramped on Earth”. Now I would take the cramped quarters of 21st century Paris over 6 months on a tiny, tiny spaceship. I haven’t seen the specs for the ship but suspect the International Space Station looks huge in comparison.
What does she think she can do on Mars? Run wildly shouting, “Yippy Kiyay”? She can only do that with a spacesuit on. And she only can run for half a tank of air. The vast majority of the rest of her life must be spent indoors tending to the machines to help keep herself alive. This, too, sounds more cramped than 21st century Paris.
Maybe she has a mental definition of cramped. The constant tyranny of survival seems to me to be mentally cramped. But I can’t read her mind.
One facet the article brings up is her intentions with regards to procreation. The article says she added to a statement that she had no plans to settle down or have children.
I now wonder if all the accepted potential breeders are required to have no children for the mission’s duration. If so, I’d like to take the reader on why I’m a critic of this and especially why I’m calling my criticism Death Watch 2024.
Firstly I find myself on the backward side of where I usually argue about space programs. Usually I’m a cheerleader for any space mission be they state sponsored or private enterprise. Be they put on by the United States, India, Space X or Virgin Galactic. So my usual initial position is to be pro any Mars expedition.
With the time frame and the limited resources and the fact this is a permanently one way mission, I think there are going to be premature deaths, maybe of all the astronauts, cosmonauts or taikonauts.
But the very premature death of all is the worst case scenario, so allow me to paint a picture of the best case scenario. With no better information than that Porcel wishes to be child free, I am going to assume that position will carry through for all chosen astronauts. (After all who would bring a child into a mission dubbed Death Watch 2024? (I know that is circular reasoning.))
So let’s assume all the rocketry performs beautifully. All missions successfully land and they establish a colony, perhaps by sheer dedication. And the colony is successfully self supporting for many years as advertised. Indeed it might stay that way for the vast majority of lives that make it to the planet.
It is said that half of all seniors in developed countries need serious intervention and assistance in their final years. So that last person left alive has a 50/50 chance of premature death of about a decade. (There will be no more humans or robots to help). But wait, there are age related illnesses that the 50 percent of unassisted seniors need to utilize on Earth. They need cataract surgery to remain sighted, radiation treatment for some cancers, drug therapies for things that get worse with age. I don’t think the mission can provide many of these cures and therapies we have on Earth.
So that last person, on a flawless mission, with everything operating smoothly as planned, will almost certainly die a decade sooner than on Earth.
That is why I am calling this Death Watch 2024. I am almost certain there will be premature deaths.