Image above: “Terrestrial Planet Sizes. The terrestrial planets are the four innermost planets in the solar system; Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. This diagram shows the approximate relative sizes of the terrestrial planets. Distances are not to scale. Image Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute.”
The following text was taken from a Guardian article on recently proposed private mission to MARS. Something deep inside me was tickled at reading the entire article, and especially the text below. I love the immense scales being discussed, the unfathomable loneliness and the inevitable, critical, psychological strain illustrated. HAVE A READ
“Besides the physiological response to spacefaring, there are serious psychological challenges to consider. Iya Whiteley, deputy director of the Centre for Space Medicine at UCL, worked with the European Space Agency on the recent Mars500 simulated mission to the planet. “We’ve uncovered more than 2,000 potential issues for long duration missions, in terms of psychological, relationships and organisational issues; how they deal with superiors, their family, what kind of support they might need and what countermeasures might help them. Of those there are only a quarter we have some idea about,” says Whiteley.
Her work with the European Space Agency exposed changes in behaviour that have cropped up before on space missions. There is the “third quarter effect”, where motivation slumps mid-way through the long journey home. There is the “pale blue dot effect”, where people experience a shift in perspective and priorities, linked with their remoteness from the world and separation from the trivialities of everyday life. As the astronauts move away from Earth, they may lose touch even more.
What if the ship is lost, either by shooting past Mars, or impacting on its surface, as has happened with scores of Mars probes in past decades? Would that set back future international missions to the planet?
On this, Whiteley raises the unthinkable, even though I’m sure she’s not serious. “It’s strange to consider whether people might not want to come back,” she says. “Maybe they have a plan to be the first people to disappear into space.” “