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Chronicles Of Martian Exploration

Two kilometers above the lava flows of Mars' Tharsis Bulge region, a geologist collects samples from the eastern cliff at the base of Olympus Mons, the solar system's largest known shield volcano. To better understand the evolution of the Arizona-sized volcano, the scientist investigates the layers of hardened lava that make up the massive feature. The block-like nature of the rock face, caused by columnar jointing, is similar to features on Earth, such as the Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Artwork done for NASA by Pat Rawlings, of SAIC.
by Anatoliy A. Potapov
Moscow - May 1, 2001
People are the most vulnerable chain in long-term space expedition. How numerous should a crew be? What are the principles of a crew selection? What should be made to protect people during a flight and on some other planet?

Scientists from the Institute for Problems of Medicine and Biology are trying to answer these and many other questions. With financial support of ISTC they have developed a Pilot Project of Manned Expedition to Mars.

Russia has a great experience in long-term orbit expeditions. It is obvious now that interplanetary flights are the matter of the nearest future, otherwise, how could we answer the question "Is there life on Mars or not?"

One of the scripts suggests that at first a cargo spaceship will go to Mars, then a manned module will follow and they will dock near the planet. The scientists say there should be six people in a crew: a pilot, a co-pilot, flight engineer, a doctor and two scientists- planetologists.

"A doctor is a key figure in the crew. A flight to Mars would take about eighteen months and it would be completely independent of the earth. So any illness, from sore throat to heart attack would have to be treated on the board", says A.N. Potapov, a participant of the project.

To help a doctor in difficult situation, the researchers are developing systems of computer diagnostics and telemedicine systems that enable consultation with the Earth. Due to modern technologies of space communication, the delay in message exchange will be only 20 minutes.

Other important aspect of the flight is a prolonged stay in a group of the same people in a close room. Astronauts will have to get over conflict situations, irritation, and fits of anger. Probably, a crew will be international that will draw additional problems.

People may feel isolated, vulnerable, insufficiently protected from open space behind a thin shell of a spaceship. Such feelings also can be a strong stress factor. That is why enhanced psychological training and maybe even psychiatric examination will be needed.

Food supply should be sufficient for all flight, however water could be regenerated. The present systems of regeneration enable to produce fresh water from wastewater, vapours and urine with 85% efficiency.

According to the calculations, it takes 1.75 kg of food, 2.5 kg of drinking water, 4.85 kg of technical water and 0.96 kg of oxygen per one person a day.

A pilot, an engineer and will in the orbit of Mars, while a co-pilot and two scientists will land on the planet. They will stay there for one or two months.

Their life-supporting system will be simpler -- using only supplies, without regeneration. It is strictly forbidden to leave anything on the planet, so all garbage should be disinfected and returned to the spaceship and then to the Earth!

One more problem is radiation. Beyond magnetic fields of the Earth, which protect us against galactic space radiation and solar flares, radiation doses will be significant. But the problem could be solved.

First, an expedition should start in a year with higher solar activity -- paradoxically, but it corresponds to minimum galactic radiation.

Second, a spaceship cover and facilities give effective protection. Solar flares are more dangerous, so a special radiation shelter is needed. Those who will land on the planet are especially exposed to solar radiation.

Returning to the Earth is also an important stage of the expedition: not only a blaze of glory but a hard period of rehabilitation is ahead.

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Plastic Homes For A Rusty World
New York - April 4, 2001
If astronauts ever make it to Mars, they'll need a roof over their heads. Bricks are too heavy to lug all the way from Earth, but with just a few bucket-loads of polyethylene powder, they could rustle them up when they get there.

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