What’s a day on Mars going to give you everyday? Permanent jet lag

Friday, 10 March, 2017

The day on Mars is only forty minutes longer than the day on Earth. Yet sols, as they are often called, to help avoid confusion when talking about the rotational periods of both planets, could prove to be hard for would-be colonists of the red planet to adjust to.

As surprising as it sounds, the extra time would be enough to leave human dwellers feeling permanently jet lagged. It seems we are simply far too used to a twenty-four hour day only.

Tacking on 40 minutes every night adds up quickly; after a short while, the Mars clock would be so far offset from the 24-hour clock that noon would be the Earth equivalent of midnight, and you might start to feel the consequences. You might experience a persistent cognitive fuzz, causing you to forget mundane things and take longer to learn new ones. You might start making mistakes.

I could think of any number of people who would be grateful to have what amounts to almost an extra hour in the day, but now it looks like going to Mars isn’t going to be the answer for the time poor among us after all.

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A day on Mars may be just a little too long for humans

Friday, 13 March, 2015

A day on Mars, or to be more precise, a complete planetary rotation, lasts about forty minutes longer than it does on Earth. You’d think that would make the red planet ideal for human settlement, if we can look passed the numerous difficulties of setting up camp there of course.

After all, who doesn’t want more hours in the day, even if it’s only not quite one full hour? It would appear that things aren’t quite that simple however. So wired are humans to an exact twenty-four hour day, the additional forty minutes provided daily on Mars would actually prove to be rather exhausting for us:

It turns out if you’re on Earth, that extra time wears thin pretty quickly. If you’re on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn’t coincide with the human body’s natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a “sol” to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn’t seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It’s like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it “rocket lag.”

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Do you really want to live on Mars? Then read this first…

Friday, 21 November, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor here, then the Mars One project will require no introduction. In short, the idea is to send people to Mars, on a way ticket, to establish a human colony there.

Make no mistake, living on, or more to the point, under Mars, as conditions on the surface are far from hospitable, won’t be easy though. In fact anyone considering signing up ought to have a read of this blunt assessment of the prospect

“They’re going to be living like moles,” Willson says. “I don’t think that the people who volunteered really appreciate that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives living in a submarine.” The first colonists would likely spend most of their time repairing the equipment that is keeping them alive. “Replacing parts and replacing a toothbrush, having toilet paper – there are some things that modern society expects and does and there would be significant degrading of your lifestyle on Mars,” says Willson.

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Drift the solar system on the Interplanetary Transport Network

Tuesday, 18 November, 2014

And still on matters Interstellar related… we may not be able to zap around the cosmos as the film’s astronaut explorers did, but gravity pathways of sorts, that weave among the planets, may make for a low energy way of moving around the solar system.

The energy demands may be low, but travelling from one point on the network to another may take a while, like drifting along on ocean currents possibly:

The Interplanetary Transport Network (ITN) is a collection of gravitationally determined pathways through the Solar System that require very little energy for an object to follow. The ITN makes particular use of Lagrange points as locations where trajectories through space are redirected using little or no energy. These points have the peculiar property of allowing objects to orbit around them, despite lacking an object to orbit. While they use little energy, the transport can take a very long time.

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Aborting the launch of the Space Shuttle, easy… in theory anyway

Monday, 20 October, 2014

There was a procedure in place to abort a Space Shuttle flight if a problem became apparent on, or immediately, after launch, but it certainly wasn’t a simple matter of switching off the engines, and heading towards a nearby landing strip…

About two minutes into the flight, the SRBs [Solid Rocket Boosters] would burn out and then be jettisoned. The SSMEs [Space Shuttle Main Engines] would continue to burn fuel from the ET [External Tank] until about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. For missions with a particularly heavy payload, the two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines could be fired during ascent to help the shuttle aloft. The OMS engines were also used later to adjust the shuttle’s orbit, including the deorbit burn that brought it home at the end of the mission. After Main Engine Cutoff (MECO), the shuttle would jettison the empty ET, which would disintegrate as it tumbled back to Earth. That’s all there was to it. What could possibly go wrong?

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Establishing a human colony on Mars, not so straightforward?

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I was quite excited about the Mars One idea, when I first heard of it a couple of years ago. Both pioneering and audacious, the project founders proposed sending four people at a time to Mars in 2024, followed by another group every two years thereafter, gradually establishing a human colony on the red planet in the process.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, analysis of the concept, based on what is currently known publicly, however finds the plan, to be unsustainable. In short they conclude that Mars One is trying to achieve too much, too soon:

The lead author, Sydney Do, a Ph.D. candidate in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said via email that in his view “the Mars One Concept is unsustainable” because of the current state of technology and its “aggressive expansion approach” of quickly adding more and more people rather than keeping the settlement at a fixed size for a period of time.

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The Cosmonaut’s survival kit, but for survival where exactly?

Thursday, 9 October, 2014

Cosmonauts on Soviet Soyuz spacecraft flights were issued with survival kits that included among other things, pistols and ammunition, fishing gear, compasses, knives, medical kits, and fire starters. And not for use on some inhabited alien planet they may have chanced upon mind you, but planet Earth…

The pistol was intended to scare off “wolves, bears, tigers, etc.” on the event of a crash landing. Later Soviet survival kits expanded to include fishing tackle, improved cold suits, royal blue knit caps with the Cyrillic initials of each cosmonaut (shades of The Life Aquatic) and “ugh boots” lined with fur.

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In space no one can sleep… or rather sleep all that well

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

Crews aboard long haul space flights, such as trips to Mars, should one, be introverts, and two, be possessed of the gene variant that allows them to function on less sleep than others since space, it seems, is not particularly conducive to slumber

Researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 85 crew members aboard the ISS and space shuttle and found that despite an official flight schedule mandating 8.5 hours of sleep per night, they rarely got more than five. In fact, getting a full night’s rest was so difficult that three-quarters of shuttle mission crew members used sleep medication, and sometimes entire teams were sedated on the same night.

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If we can’t go to the stars maybe they can come to us

Friday, 15 August, 2014

Even the Stars screen cap

Wandering through space without a purpose. Getting old and getting lost. That’s what interstellar space exploration might actually be like, given the time it’ll take to get anywhere… a game by Pol Clarissou.

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The greatest space flight hacks to date

Thursday, 14 August, 2014

Photo by NASA

We all know that the Apollo 13 Moon mission was essentially one long space flight hack that returned the crew safely home, but there have been other instances of space missions going awry for one reason or another, even if the problems have not been of quite the same severity.

In April 1985, nine months before the Challenger disaster, the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery deployed the satellite Leasat-3. With the shuttle doors open, it drifted away. But within minutes it was clear that something was wrong: the satellite’s antennae had failed to deploy. Rather than abandon the $85m satellite, the crew set to work putting together a less-than-sophisticated device that could be used to poke the satellite to activate a lever on its side. Dubbed the “fly swatter”, this improvised space stick was constructed using clear plastic covers from spacecraft manuals, sticky tape and a metal pole.

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