Friday, February 25, 2005

EUROPA - Our next challenge: a human on Mars

“The European Space Agency will be the first space agency to reach all planets in the inner solar system.” That was the assurance of Piero Messina, speaking for ESA’s Aurora Exploration Programme at the last Earth & Space Expo lunchtime seminar in Brussels.

The Aurora Programme planned to land humans on Mars by 2033, but Earth-bound politics since 2003 have already altered that timescale. The space station that has only just begun to be assembled should have been completed by now, so human footprints in the dust of Mars are further away than ever.

But Messina was adamant that the programme would continue to completion, with Mars as the primary, but not only, goal. The schedule for the next twenty years includes trial return flights, automated missions and a supplies dump. Robots and humans will work together to make progress possible.

The more pragmatic considerations behind sending the ExoMars rover into the red dust focus on boosting competitiveness by giving industry innovative advantages, and finding ways to increase global security through international co-operation.

Who will be going?

When all the automated tests have been run, and the training is complete, humans will be sent to Mars. The journey will take six months, compared to the three-day journey to the Moon, so pre-flight selection will be critical. Conflict resolution may be one of the principal skills required in astronauts willing to spend 26 weeks in the most cramped and isolated conditions ever experienced by humans. The women and/or men on the spacecraft will be psychologically and physically fit, able to endure a testing voyage in a hostile environment. They will need to grow their own food and drink recycled water, and be their own space maintenance crew as well as scientists and pilots.

EUROPA - Space - Earth & Space Week - Our next challenge: a human on Mars


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