Taco nights, competitive board games, group viewings of Game of Thrones
April 20, 2015 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Mars. "The volunteers perched in the lava fields of Mauna Loa on the HI-SEAS (Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) mission are as close as Earthlings will get to Mars in the foreseeable future."

" ...Since the nineteen-sixties, the schedule for a trip to Mars has been a shimmering, receding horizon, always a few decades away. Daunting technological, physiological, and political obstacles stand in the way of a project still so undefined that no real dollar figures are attached to it.... Yet the U.S. is actually somewhat closer to a Mars mission than it’s ever been. NASA is testing a new capsule and a new heavy-lift rocket. A robotic rover planned for 2020 will test technology for extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere." So, what would it be like to live on Mars?
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My undergraduate advisor, Ray Arvidson, has been intimately involved with all of the Mars Rover research. It turns out that there are some places in Hawaii (like the Kau Desert) and the Mojave Desert and also Rio Tinto, Spain which are great geological analogues for Mars and provide useful places to test capabilities of the rovers. And people. One of the coolest parts about having Ray for an advisor was getting to travel to those places to learn about geology and land use and the environment, and also Mars. And every now and then we had to stop for Ray to be interviewed by National Geographic, or something!
posted by ChuraChura at 12:42 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Great read in that first link! I am glad the New Yorker mentioned the similar projects by the Mars Society. They've been simulating Mars missions at Devon Island for years, and have started a base in Utah.

And oddly enough, for a Mars simulation, the Moon is not really much better than an isolated spot on Earth. In some ways it is worse.

For one, the Moon's day is 29.5 Earth days long, but Mars' is about 24 hours. And on Mars, there is actually a daytime sky with color--an important psychological feature--while the Moon's sky is always black with stars.

The weather on Mars and Earth is more similar, too. The temperature range on Mars goes from a low of about -195 F to a high of about 70 F depending on the time of year and where you live. On the Moon, every night gets down to -387 F and every day the temperature climbs to 253 F! Oh, and there is wind on Mars, but not the Moon.

And then there's the science. Mars' surface is largely sedimentary (whether from wind or water borne deposits) and has complex clays and other materials that are similar to Earth minerals. The Moon is more like a big dead dry asteroid. Geologists especially can actually simulate exploring Mars on Earth better than they could on the Moon.

The availability of water on Mars is also much more similar (though very different) to dry deserts on Earth than it is to the Moon.
posted by General Tonic at 12:54 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ah Mars, you beautiful red whale. Always beckoning, but always just out of reach.

You promise not riches or even necessities, but rather a harsh environment for us to waddle around in for long dreary weeks, huddling in dry cramped space for the pleasure of merely saying "I was here." All of this could be ours, for only a few hundred billions dollars and perhaps a life or two.

Enough you mad auburn scoundrel take me in to your cold and radiation soaked arms, free of the protective blanket of an life giving atmosphere. Bathe us in your hostile temperatures, that we may know the true bliss of exploration!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on April 20, 2015 [16 favorites]

Terraforming FTW, Brandon.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2015

You want an even better simulation of life on an alien planet? Go to Burning Man.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Terraforming FTW, Brandon.

Oh terraforming, you alluring and sultry siren, whisper your sweet words in our ears, promise us the ripe succulent fruit of a new world though our own crumbles from ignorance and greed. Rock us to sleep in your arms, cooing us with sweet visions of a place to escape to and rebuild.

Excuse us while we cough from all the pollution in the air. Go on, tell us about Venus and how it too can be ours through the miracle of terrafarming! Yes, right there, that's the spot....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I was in the Mars Society's Desert Research Station back in 2002 - Crew 9 Represent! I'd be lying if I said a great deal of scientific research was accomplished during our stay, but it was a fantastic experience and, absent everything going perfectly well for SpaceX, probably the closest I'll get to visiting Mars, what with the simulated spacesuits and expeditions and such. It's not a terrible way of inspiring scientists and raising money and interest, either.
posted by adrianhon at 2:48 PM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I keep reading the title as "competitive viewings of Game of Thrones" and I kind of want to be part of that.

Hawaii seems pretty great. Chill out on a beach, then go practice Mars.
posted by curious nu at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

competitive group taco viewing where you look hardest at the best taco and are declared Winner of False Mars
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

All these tacos are yours, except this one. Attempt no competitive group viewings of it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:47 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Leave Mars to the Martians
posted by Joe Chip at 9:52 PM on April 20, 2015

My S.O. and I have lived in a lot of short-term rentals and once we made a spreadsheet to find out what features of a dwelling contributes the most to our happiness -- lighting, floorplan, etc.

Our findings? Happiness is two bathrooms.

You're welcome, NASA. I'll expect my grant check in the mail.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:24 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

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