Homer: Hello, is this NASA?
Homer: Good! Listen, I'm sick of your boring space launches. Now I'm just an ordinary, blue-collar slob, but I know what I likes on TV.
Scientist: How did you get this number?
Homer: Shut up! And another thing, how come I can't get no Tang 'round here?
-The Simpsons, Episode Deep Space Homer
Last week, I told you that Starts With A Bang has been put into the lucky position to ask the first group of private/commercial astronauts anything! And the response I got was absolutely wonderful!
I think this is a big deal, because NASA isn't going to be the only entity responsible for astronauts for very long.
Instead, private citizens and companies will be responsible for much of the maintenance, installation, and both scientific and commercial endeavors in space. Who will these astronauts be?
Private citizens, with regular jobs, just like you and me. But, unlike us, they have a specialized skill set that prepares them for the difficulties one must face when performing intricate tasks in outer space. We are fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor of the commercial astronaut enterprise, and I have (with much help from you) selected five questions to ask Astronauts4Hire, the first group of private astronauts assembled and ready for service!
So let's see what we've got for them!
1.) What's a Commercial Astronaut, and how does the "commercial" Astronaut differ from other Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Space Tourists? (From Kathleen R. via facebook.)
2.) Do the requirements and training differ from NASA's? What types of background and training do you (as private astronauts) have? (From Sean H. via facebook and Mike.)
3.) What are your primary motivations and personal goals for wanting to be an astronaut? Was this your childhood dream? Is there a special scientific/engineering/patriotic/personal aspiration that you hope to fulfill? (Question synthesized from Matthew, Mike, and Sean H.)
4.) Being commercial astronauts, what types of missions and tasks will you likely be performing? How much control will the private sector have over the types of missions conducted, and what are the other factors, if any? (From crd2, Jeremy F., and Sean H.)
5.) As a commercial astronaut who might be hired independently for a Mars mission, would you go on any craft, even if it wasn't your own country sponsoring the journey? Also, would you go if you knew it was a one-way trip? (From Heather, the great blogger over at pillownaut. For the record, this is my favorite question!)
I like this last one so much that I have a general poll for you readers: if you had the opportunity, knowing that you would surely die on the Red Planet, would you go on a one-way voyage to Mars?
I love this blog, one of the best in explaining scientific concepts to the Homers such as myself. However, I have to disagree with this particular post. Yes, private enterprise will likely play a role in future space exploration, but not a large one. At the moment only governments can manage the resources needed for space exploration, at least beyond Earth orbit. Here is an excellent link to a Charlie Stross entry discussing the issue. Found it while reading the Paul Krugman of all things. I think it makes a lot of sense and it forces an unwanted reality check.
That is the best question-- I dont know... God I want to go to Mars so badly, but if I could never see blue again, or green, or have a puppy... I dont think I could do it :( I always joke that Oklahoma is like living on a terraformed Mars (creepy red dirt, dry, wind all the time), but we have *some* green and blue... and puppies...
Yes. Without a second of hesitation. I would go to Mars on a one way trip and enjoy every moment I stay there.
The only reason I voted no is that I'm scared of space. If it was a one-way trip to a (barely?) liveable mars, and I was kinda old already, I might consider it a bit more due to the epicness of it.
I would go in a heartbeat. Oh, I'd be scared, and I'd have plenty of regrets. Being only 25 I have most of my life ahead of me. But being one of the first human beings to set foot on Mars is something I feel would be worth dying for. There's not a lot I can think of in life that would rival that accomplishment.
Mars isn't a great planet to ask that question about. What a dump!
I tried to think of what would be a better choice. Well, Earth. Other than Earth? Venus is worse than Mars. Ganymede has good views. Titan would be OK, but it's too cloudy. Uranus would be a cool place to send e-mail from ("guess where I am!"), but once you do, it's used up.
I've held the position for over a decade that I'd volunteer for any off-planet colonisation effort if it had any chance of success.
Not quite the same as your question, as I don't limit myself to Mars, but similar enough to be relevant.
Though I primarilly was thinking of interstellar colonisation with things like generation ships (as I am firmly of the opinion that human expansion into space should bypass planetary surfaces at least initially and focus on space settlements and asteroid mining rather than fixed bases on the moon and/or mars and spending trillions on shooting stuff up out of gravity wells), I'd not be averse to joining a Mars expedition if the goal was to set up a permanent presence on the planet and I was to be among its permanent residents.
I'd go to Mars in a flash. Back in 1963, when I was 12, I wanted to be the first person on Mars. Then, I got glasses, and in those days, the dream was over. I'm hoping to save enough $$ to take a trip into space before I kick off. Great question.
I forgot to add: Kim Stanley Robinson's book RED MARS describes a one-way trip to Mars in wonderful technical detail. If only we had the nano-technology he describes!
I love the philosophical nature of question #5. I would go to Mars if I could say in hindsight (from the afterlife I suppose) that I had a fighting chance of the mission's succeeding and its members living a normal lifespan. I would die for a chance to live. If I knew there was no chance of success, no go.
I also look forward to the answers to question #4!
Nathan, your comment is cool.
I should have said Uranus would be a good place to text or tweet from. Showing my age.
Another good thing about Ganymede is you could jump hella high.
Yes, but very specific conditions have to be met. Why? Because I don't trust the private sector. Profits could be prioritized over astronaut safety, and that would be a definite show-stopper.
Another thing is I would have to see the goals of the mission specifically laid out, and be absolutely (well, as absolutely as possible) sure that a communications link to earth would be maintained at all times, regardless of possible complications or breakdowns.
I'd have to see systems redundancy. There's hella dust storms on Mars and if you were going to be there for the rest of your life you'd probably experience a lot of them. You'd want to be sure you could get your equipment back up and running after hunkering down and waiting out a particularly long and nasty storm.
The meal plan has to be taken care of, of course.
Bottom line: the rush to be the "first" could end up with Homer being strapped to a missile and shot into oblivion, and if he's lucky enough to crash into Mars before he dies, he'd be a hero.
But I am not willing to be that Homer.
I'd like to to be part of it if it's done right, however.
There is a ticket to one end as it is not hunting. It is better to live to see how will be a more reliable connection to the same Mars)
I wouldn't go on a one-way trip to Mars because I have a wife and kids I'd never see again.
Were it not for that, and assuming a reasonably long lifespan there, I'd be off like a shot.
I'd take a one-way ticket to Mars in a gnat's heartbeat. It'd be the greatest (by any measure) geological field expedition ever, and in the (virtual) company of the planet's greatest geologists. After that, and after the food and fuel ran out, I'd be a Martian mummy with no regrets.
To heck with NASA! I'm starting a space company. I need salespeople, engineers and investors.