Scanning through the limited supply of non-political national news over the weekend, I found a few interesting articles about a new NASA-funded study that is part of a project to send people to Mars.
According to the articles (I will paste a few links below), NASA is paying a great deal of money for a study of six people living inside a pod for eight months. The articles brought up several really interesting items, as well as bunch of questions. Here are a few examples:
The crew is led by James Bevington, who is a freelance scientist. He has with him two engineers, a computer scientist, a doctoral candidate and a biomedical expert. The crew of four men and two women moved into a vinyl pod located at the base of a volcano in Hawaii last week to begin the study.
That all sounds great, but what exactly is a freelance scientist? Is it like the brother in iCarly, or the wacky dad in countless movies and television shows? I’m sure he must be great, but can’t NASA afford a full-time scientist for a project like this?
During the eight months, the crewmembers will be studied to see how they react psychologically to the seclusion inside the limited space. The idea is to help NASA select the correct personality types for a long trip to Mars and then for living on Mars.
While that makes sense, couldn’t NASA just watch “Big Brother,” “Survivor” or countless other television shows and learn the same thing? After one episode, I know which people I would not want to live with.
When the pod needs supplies during the eight-month study, the supplies will be delivered by a robot in order to keep the crew isolated.
This brings up several questions, such as why have we not heard more about these robots before? If we have robots capable of delivering supplies to people living on a volcano, why can’t the rest of us use them? Instead of spending millions of dollars studying how to pick the best roommates, let’s spend more money on robots.
Also, how does that help the study at all? Why don’t they have all of the supplies with them in the pod to start with? Who is going to deliver supplies to them in space?
The crewmembers will be able to communicate with the outside world, but there will be a 20-minute lag time in receiving and sending responses, in order to simulate the lag time in space.
So basically, it will be like any parent texting a child and waiting for a response. I can tell NASA right now, it is annoying.
NASA is doing this study in Hawaii at the base of a volcano in order to best simulate life on Mars.
C’mon, who believes that? The place where these people are getting paid to live and do nothing for 8 months just happens to be in Hawaii because it’s just like Mars? I just don’t believe that’s true. Wouldn’t somewhere like Antarctica be much more like living on Mars simply because it is not easy to live there?
I would like to congratulate whoever wrote up the grant to get this funded. Did someone put it in as a joke? “Oh, yeah, and well, we’re going to have to live in, uhmm, Hawaii, yeah, that’s it, because everyone knows that Mars is just like Hawaii. It’s either Mars or Paris. That’s where we have to live. Or Cancun. It will certainly be tough on us. And of course we will have to have countless assistants and robots living nearby to keep us safe and collect our huge paychecks.”
NASA is planning to send humans to an asteroid in the 2020s and to Mars in the 2030s.
Really? Why are they not talking more about this? I actually think this is pretty interesting. Life on an asteroid looked pretty terrible in the movie “Armageddon” but then again that movie was pretty terrible (but quite entertaining). In order to simulate life on an asteroid hurtling through space, maybe they should have a crew of people live on a roller coaster or inside a bouncy house for eight months.
Finally, while I was very interested in this reading about this pod in Hawaii, these types of studies apparently take place all the time. In August of 2016, another crew emerged from the same Hawaiian pod after living there for a whole year. Also, several other similar studies are currently going on around the world. These types of studies have been held since at least the 1990s, when the somewhat well-known Biosphere 2 project was launched in Arizona. A few of the big findings of the 1990s study were that the crew members (who were very upset with each other when they emerged) found it was important to have their owner personal space and the ability to use electronic communications to talk to people on the outside.
Duh. I could have told them that for a much smaller price. I have conducted similar studies by living with siblings, spending eight months in an extremely cramped residence hall room with two other roommates, and by taking long car trips with children.
For only $500,000 or so, I would be happy to tell NASA about my important findings, which include:
- No matter the personalities, everyone will hate everyone at some point when you are confined in a small space.
- Don’t take anyone hugely political to Mars.
- Make sure they take lots of things to read.
- Don’t take people who like to argue to Mars.
- Encourage everyone to go to the bathroom right before entering the pod.
- Don’t take anyone who thinks he or she knows a shortcut to Mars and wants to constantly ignore the directions.
- They will want to watch movies. The greatest invention in family transportation history was the ability for children to watch movies in the back seat. I guarantee that the astronauts or free-lance doctors will want to watch the NASA version of Netflix.
- Don’t take people who like to cheat at board games or cards to Mars.
- Do take lots of snacks, but don’t take snacks that make a big mess everywhere.
- Make sure you can keep the snacks separate so they do not start arguments.
- Don’t take any professional wrestlers to Mars. You can’t trust them.
If my current findings aren’t enough for NASA, I will also volunteer to take part in a further study by living in Hawaii for eight months. If that is not possible, I will even volunteer to stay home for eight months for only a few hundred thousand dollars. During this time, I will only interact with my family members and I am sure they will be happy to give NASA and anyone else who asks some opinions about me.
I would be proud to be a part of this important research and would enjoy eating pizza that was delivered by robots. And best of all, of course, it would give me more time to get started on my freelance science work.
Here are a few links to real articles about this: