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I reckon the non-profit foundation which is trying to recruit a couple to go on a “bare-bones,” 501 day trip to Mars and back — in a wee capsule with 600 cu feet of living space for the two of them — is run by a group of single folks who haven’t got a clue.  A project spokesman has expressed a preference for a married couple.  Really?

If they had asked me, I would have recommended that they hire two people who not only do not know each other, but who also do not find one another the slightest bit attractive.  That, of course, will come later.  With 501 days to work with, it seems only logical to buy what little time you can where the pair are unfamiliar with each other, hence might remain somewhat friendly for a while. As they get to know each other, there may even develop a bit of jollity, which will naturally turn into flirtation.  How long this would take is uncertain, but every peaceful day is a bonus.

Despite their isolation from other humans, jealousy may not be entirely avoidable.  It is expected that they will be in regular contact with friends and family via email and no doubt the rest of the world via Facebook.  One would hope that each will have their own computer and TV, and a good headset.  It would also be important, if at all possible, to find a woman who does not like to shop.

We’re told that the capsule is to be fitted with a life-support system which will recycle air, water, urine, faeces, and perspiration.  Project chief technical officer, Taber MacCallum, described the expedition as a “Lewis and Clark trip to Mars.”  You may recall that there was neither a Mrs. Lewis, nor a Mrs Clark, on that historic journey.

According to a recent article in New Scientist, the expedition crew will face cramped conditions, muscle atrophy and potential boredom. Their greatest health risk, however, will be exposure to radiation from cosmic rays. So the crew will be protected by lining the spacecraft’s walls with water, food and their own faeces.  Given that there is nowhere else for the “material” to go, and it apparently makes great radiation shielding, it all seems like a no-brainer.  Jolly good.  The solid and liquid human waste will be  dehydrated so that any water can be recycled for drinking.  What’s left–the solid waste products–will be put into bags and used to line the walls.  Project spokesmen say their food will also be used as a radiation shield, lining the walls.  Presumably not the same walls as the dehydrated waste products…  It was acknowledged that there are still some problems to be ironed out, including the basic worry of dealing with the residual sights and smells of the poo lining the walls.  “Hopefully they’re not clear bags,” said one project spokesman.

The expedition is expected to start in less than five years.   The launch window for the project begins on January 5, 2018.  If they don’t make that, the next time Mars is similarly aligned is 2031.  In 2031 there is likely to be a great deal of competition, which is why project organizers are keen to catch the 2018 alignment–they’re “trying to be a stepping-stone.”

I reckon someone will make a fortune several times over making book on how many days into the journey it will be before the crew is reduced to one…          MM

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