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1228-CommandersReport

Commander Report
12/28/2014
Nick Orenstein

Commander’s Log
Mars Date 1461228.00

        It appears as difficult to travel successfully to simulated Mars as
to travel to actual Mars. Originally a collection of seven
international officers, Crew 146 arrived yesterday at the Mars Desert
Research Station in two spacecraft as a team of four. All carried
stories of travel adventures, delays, and confusions along with their
cargo.
        The dwindling of our ranks began several months ago. We suffered our
first loss when the financial burden of a trip to Mars would not be
covered by a sponsor. It continued several weeks ago when one of our
two members realized that her visa approval would not be completed
before our launch date. Sickness overcame a third participant; he is
still recovering from the flu.
        These three circumstances highlight three of the most important
factors that currently plague the sincere creation of a serious
mission to Mars: economics, international cooperation, and human
physiology.
        The worldwide science and engineering community has the technical
knowledge to identify and solve all of the outstanding gaps in space
travel. These include environmental control and life support systems,
radiation protection, space habitats, and launch vehicles. But R&D
cannot be funded by measly angel investors and non-profit grants. It
will take billions of dollars. This money, of course, is still spent
on Earth. Sadly, current funding priorities are elsewhere. As a
result, talented people and their work are left out.
        The various space agencies don’t always play well with each other.
Apollo was a geopolitical arms race. The International Space Station
(ISS) nobly hosts visitors and science from across Earth. Except for
China. Terrestrial travel now requires visas to cross borders which
most astronauts will tell you don’t truly exist when you look back
down on our Blue Marble. International cooperation is much more than
simple cost sharing. It is a progressive admission to ourselves that
we are all Earthlings, and we are all in it together.
        A large percentage of space research at the ISS is on the effect of
the space environment on the human body. Dangers abound, but none so
large that human ingenuity cannot out-design. Martian habitats must
shield from radiation. Astronauts will need to cope with months of
transit in microgravity and a long duration surface mission at 1/3 g.
The flu and other common colds can be avoidable, but only if we
properly quarantine explorers and their equipment prior to leaving
Earth.
        As humanity looks onwards to Mars, we must first look inwards. We
must reprioritize. The limiting factors cannot be so, or else we will
not succeed.