39 thoughts on “501 Days In Space

  1. Andrew W

    I think the psychological difficulties are overrated, people have often spending months or years separated from the rest of humanity on treks and when long distance sailing.

    1. Arizona CJ

      You raise some good points.

      Long distance solo sailing, particularly non-stop circumnavigations, means a lot of time alone and isolated. This isn’t quite so true now with communications being so much easier (yachts often have e-mail, internet, satphones, etc). However, just a couple of decades ago, things were largely different; you’d be limited largely to VHF, which isn’t great on range.

      When Jesse Martin did his solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation in the 90′s, he was at sea for about a year, alone, with limited communications for much of the time. He was 17 when he set out, in a 34 foot boat. He was totally alone for the entire time, and for him, like others before him, much of it was without two-way comms for much of the time.

      Given the tight confines of the proposed Mars craft, I’m honestly undecided as to whether one person, or a couple, would be best. Sending one person would help on mass (consumables) and life support. I wonder if they’ll consider that if the two-person plan proves unworkable from a mass perspective?

      1. Larry J

        The idea behind sending a man and a woman is to represent all of humanity. Perhaps they could just send a bisexual.

        As Woody Allen stated a long time ago, being bisexual doubles your chances of getting a date on Saturday night.

  2. Paul Milenkovic

    I got it! Let’s send Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and broadcast the goings on as reality TV . . .

  3. Thomas Matula

    Humans are adaptable and given the experience of Earth II I expect they could handle 501 days in space by themselves. Pioneer couples, especially ones in fur trapping often spent long times alone without ANY contact with other humans for months. Given no other choice you learn to deal with it.

    The real question is if they will be able to handle the media circus this mission will create around them with reporters nagging them constantly to give interviews on what is it like, what your worst experience was, etc. That will probably be what drives them insane. :-)

      1. Kevin

        Don’t give them an on/off switch. After the first couple of months, figuring out how to build one will be a compelling group project

      1. Dennis Wingo

        The Youtube video of them dying of incompetence would serve as a warning to the rest of their kind.

  4. Arizona CJ

    Regarding the idea of sending celebrities… I utterly oppose that, unless it’s a flight profile such as the Mariner probes, Pioneer, Voyager, etc.

    This would have a lot of mass benefits, including avoiding the need for a TPS. (though if TPS is omitted, I have no objections to celebs on an earth-return mission trajectory).

    1. Rick C

      If you omit the TPS, you also no longer have to worry about whether the new covers were on them.

  5. Alan Kellogg

    Five hundred and one days? You aint gonna do it in anything smaller than a 100 man craft, plus the supplies needed to keep them well and functioning. You want to get to Mars you need a ship. To get a ship up and ready to go you’re going to need the infrastucture. To develop the infrastructure you need to establish bases on the Moon> You aint getting to Mars on the cheap.

    1. ken anthony

      A 24 passenger ship (BA700) could be put in orbit dry for about $300m. Another $500m to $1b gives it enough fuel to get to mars (depending on planetary alignments and path taken.) $190m for every four crew gets them to the surface where 2.5 mt for every $190m is waiting for them.

      That’s very cheap compared to the ridiculous hundreds of billions that government quotes.

      Oh, and it’s not 501 days. That’s round trip with most of the days on the returning leg. It’s only about 240 days.

      That BA700 gives each person a 12 m^3 private cabin and several large common rooms to socialize with those 2 dz fellow passengers during the 6 month trip.

      For a bonus, they get to use poo as a radiation shield!!!

      1. Alan Kellogg

        Ever spend a week in a car with three other people? Can lead to homicidal ideation.

        Now make it 40 weeks.

        We need space, we need people, we need variety. We need to get away on occasion, because constant familiarity can lead to violence.

        1. ken anthony

          Is murder the only option? Humans must still be hanging in trees in Africa. I think my BA700 with both it’s large private rooms and a few common rooms strikes a good balance, but my ref. mission sends two of those.

          I think it’s quite possible for dozens of people to travel together for months as long as they have private time. I hear rumors it’s been done.

          I don’t think the Donner party went cannibal until after the food ran out.

    1. ken anthony

      I’d go with a bunny rabbit just for the fun of watching them bounce from wall to wall. You definitely don’t want a snake or turtle because they urinate something worse than skunk.

      1. Brett Brewer

        Just think of all of the LOLcat videos that would generate. Can humanity really afford not to do this?

  6. Alan Kellogg

    You want to spend 501 days getting to, exploring, and returning from Mars, it’s going to take a ship with a crew of 100 plus supplies. Mars is not cheap.

    1. Daver

      You didn’t read the article; this is a fly-by. No landing, no orbit, just fly close enough to do a swing-around.

      1. Alan Kellogg

        You ducked the point, it’s still 501 days. 501 days with people you’ll utterly detest by day 100. People who will try to kill you, or who you will try to kill. We’re not evolved to put up with people in close quarters for that length of time.

        1. Daver

          You were describing a different problem–get to, land, explore, take off, and return. The first part of the mission is spent preparing for exploration and practicing various contingency drills, the second part doing the exploration, the third part returning. My guess is that only the third part would involve any real tedium–people are much too busy on the first two parts to have much time for trouble. But the trip you’re talking about is at least an order of magnitude harder, and requires a few orders of magnitude more materials.

          The trip actually described is much different that I’m not really sure they can be compared (except for the coincidence of travel times)–much lower tech, much, much cheaper. Also, no real purpose for the crew–they just sit there and hope nothing goes wrong. Plenty of time for one member’s habit of not putting the lid on the toothpaste to engender a killing ire in the other.

          Other responders have pointed out various situations that seem analogous. Depending on how they’re chosen, there’s a fair chance that the crew won’t be at each other’s throats (literally) by the end of the mission. It wouldn’t be hard to find out what the risk is–get several pairs of volunteers and lock each pair into a volkswagon for a year and a half and see how they fare.

          Heinlein (again with the Heinlein) had a long duration mission to Mars; everyone on board (with the exception of a baby born on the way) had killed each other by the time they arrived at Mars.

    2. John Schilling

      “You want to spend 501 days getting to, exploring, and returning from Mars, it’s going to take a ship with a crew of 100 plus supplies”

      No, Alan: if you want to spend 501 days, etc, it would take a ship with a crew of 100. Which is why you, Alan Kellog, aren’t going. The “Carnival Barsoom” won’t launch in your lifetime.

      But Enest Shackleton managed 528 days with only 28 men, most of that time without a ship and under far harsher conditions. For that matter, the aforementioned Taber and Jane led essentially a 4-person crew for 731 days, locked in with another hostile 4-person crew, while avoiding homicide and doing some decent science. There’s a reason CNN (and the rest of us) are talking to them about this, you know.

      If you’ve got actual evidence that the proposed mission is beyond the realm of human possibility, for all of humanity, let’s hear it. If all you’ve got is your own intuition based on family road trips, well, that’s why we aren’t sending your family. Deep space exploration, for many decades to come, will be for truly extraordinary men and women only.

  7. Arizona CJ

    The first married couple to fly in space together were newlyweds, but that was a far shorter mission (STS-47). I think Inspiration Mars has it right; a middle aged couple who have been married for quite some time.

    I wonder how Inspiration Mars will handle what’s likely to be a favorite question of the media; sex in space.

  8. Gregg

    It was reported by the participants of the Age of Sail, when a lot of trips took months and years, that quite often, minor characteristics, tics, that are utterly ignored in general, are accentuated to the extreme until the psyche is rubbed raw and you what to throttle the guy to a gruesome ghastly death.

    Little things like an odd pronunciation of an often used word, or a double blink when asking a question. Things like that all of a sudden take on monstrous importance when confined in a small space for months and years.

    But they found a way to deal with it. Though we have a higher expectation of instant gratification than they did back then.

    1. Daver

      My usual method of coping when things get too irritating is to go away–take a walk, lock myself in my room, whatever. I’m not sure how easy that would be on this project. It might be nice if each person had a cubicle they could lock themselves away in.

      I expect that flushing someone out the airlock because they had smelly farts would ruled justifiable homicide.

      1. Larry J

        Perhaps they whould include a VR headset each person to have the opportunity to virtually go somewhere else from time to time.

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