THAT HUMANS will travel to Mars, and soon, is a widely accepted conviction within NASA.  

Rachel McCauley, the acting director of NASA's Mars campaign had, as of July, a punch list of 800 problems that must be solved before the first human mission launches.

Many of these concerns the mechanical difficulties of transporting people to a planet that is never closer than 33.9 million miles [nearly 55 million kilometers] away, keeping them alive on poisonous soil in unbreathable air..........

Bombarded by solar radiation and galactic cosmic rays, without access to immediate communication; and returning them to Earth, more than a year and a half later.

But McCauley does not doubt that NASA will overcome these challenges. What NASA does not yet know is whether humanity can overcome the psychological torment of Martian life.    

THE MARS MISSION - CHAPEA, would not actually go to Mars. But the success of CHAPEA { '' Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog ''} will depend on the precision with which it simulates the first human expedition to Mars - an eventuality that NASA expects to occur by 2040.

The psychic perils of separation from one's social world are well understood. 

'' Don't we already know what isolation does to people?'' asks J.S. Johnson - Schwartz, a professor of philosophy at Wichita State University who studies the ethics of space exploration.

'' What uncertainty exists about what's going to happen when you lock people inside a room for a year? Just because the room is painted to look like Mars doesn't mean it's going to change the results.  

NASA had not solved the problem of isolation in outer space. It realized it did not need to solve it. 

At least not until half a century later, when a new challenge presented itself : a human mission to a planet so distant that cry for help would have to travel through the solar system for 22 minutes before it was heard.

It was the lag in communication that particularly worried the partners and families of the CHAPEA crew. All contact with the habitat would be delayed by the amount of time that it would take to beam information tens of millions of miles from Earth to Mars.

Even the tersest exchange [ '' How's it going? '' ''OK.'' ]  would take 44 minutes. But 44 minutes was the best-case scenario, because any communication will have to flow through a single node.

Every unit of information - not just messages but surveillance footage, audio recordings, experimental biostatic records - will have to wait its turn in a digital queue. Anything approaching a normal human conversation with an Earthling was unthinkable.

The most modest digital postcard - short, grainy video of a child blowing out a birthday candle - might take weeks to arrive.

Racheal McCauley was the NASA official responsible for funding CHAPEA. When asked what she hoped to learn about human psychology, she dismissed the premise of the question :

'' The big reason why I funded it, '' she said, '' is because I need an even more refined answer to this question. How much food does it really take for a Mars mission?

What about the mission's psychological aspect? The monotony ? The loneliness?

'' I'm a hardware person first, '' McCauley said. She is, to be precise, a solid propulsion systems engineer. She has the distinction of being the member of our species who has been most responsible for determining the best method to catapult humanity to Mars.

'' The urge to try to recreate a perfect world is always going to be about rehearsing what we got wrong here.'' 

This Master Essay Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Nathaniel Rich.


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