NASA’s man-made Mars mission plan looks terribly familiar


You are qualified for a position advertised by NASA.

NASA is taking requests for four people to live in man-made Martian habitat for a year. While there, they will perform spacewalks, have limited communication with the home, and exist with limited food and resources. Oh, there will be occasional equipment failures.

Much like that time when your toilet paper supply was low, you walked around the neighborhood once a day and didn’t know how to make a video call with your family. Except you will get paid. By NASA.

NASA is looking for people for the fall 2022 mission which will be followed by two more – each lasting a year. Three tries.

The initial announcement stated that NASA was looking for “healthy and motivated, non-smoking US citizens or permanent residents between the ages of 30 and 55 who are fluent in English for effective communication between crew and flight control. mission”. Crew selection will follow NASA standard criteria for astronauts i.e. most of us are unqualified.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in a STEM field such as engineering or mathematics; or in biological, physical or computer sciences from an accredited institution with at least two years of professional experience in STEM or a minimum of 1000 hours of airplane piloting.

However, it is not rigid.

NASA says it may also consider applicants who have completed two years of work toward a STEM doctoral program, or earned a medical degree, or a test pilot program. (Yet almost none of us qualify). The announcement also states that NASA will consider applicants with four years of professional experience, applicants who have completed military officer training or a Bachelor of Science degree in a STEM field.

One more step and many of us could qualify.

The four “winners” will live in a habitat the size of a house in Houston, created by a 3D printer. It’s called Mars Dune Alpha and occupies 1,700 square feet in the Johnson Space Center.

Let’s take a step back and consider what is wanted. Those who get the gig:

• Live with three other people for a year in a 1,700 square foot space.
• Have limited communications with strangers.
• Have limited food and resources.

Forget about that “qualifying” thing. You are qualified for this! So I am!

This work looks like the last 18 months.

Sure, they want people to do science experiments to simulate what will happen on Mars, but haven’t we shown we are skilled when we created handmade masks and found substitutes for toilet paper? ? Will NASA recognize our experience when we had to find a way to keep our kids learning without going crazy? Do we have credit for our Covid gardens or our “creative projects” that we launched during lockdowns?

NASA is still our best and our brightest. NASA sent 24 men to the moon and brought them back safe and sound. NASA dreams big.

Mars is worth exploring and I’m okay with people faking an isolated life on Mars with very little communication with friends and family.

We could do that! However, I am not very interested in doing this and suspect most of us are not.

For one thing, most of us don’t meet NASA’s rigorous standards.

But the main reason we’re not interested is that spending a year in isolation, trying to navigate a dangerous new world where things are difficult, unprecedented, and potentially deadly doesn’t seem like fun.

It looks like 2020.

Contact Brad Stanhope at [email protected].

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