ew would not recognize the alluring "Space, the final frontier.... To boldly go where no one has gone before,” these are evocative words with the power to ignite wanderlust in many a heart. It takes more than imagination, however, to be a true spacefaring society. It takes leaps in technology, an opening of minds, education, cultural evolution, and new ways of collaboration. To not just use the infrastructure of space as we do now, but to actually live in it, happily and productively. Spacefaring societies must build collaborative platforms to work multiple pathways simultaneously in order to democratize spacefaring.
This opinion piece explores how Israel’s successful analog Mars missions at Makhtesh Ramon is doing its share to promote the scientific, technological, social, and cultural skillsets necessary to get to space with the intention of working and living in space.
In future pieces, we will explore further crucial collaborative-culture as well as the funding and policy mindsets best suited to realize actual space missions.
Coordinates 30.6153° N, 34.8845° E
Log at 0500
Taly opens her eyes to the Alpine scenery which has been carved into the wood that lines the inside of her private sleeping pod. Raindrop-shaped holes allow light to stream in and when she gets out, the cold daylight filling the habitat indicates clear skies today. She prepares a cup of coffee (90 ml of water heated for 30-seconds at 800 Watts) and a cup of oatmeal with dried fruits (5 ml of water heated for 90-seconds at 380 Watts), courtesy of Genie’s new line of healthy products. Taly breathes deep and smiles as she sips, she always enjoyed the food choices available to her in the habitat.
The tubes and jars of the previous night’s soil analysis setup all have layered soil within. They were auto-photographed during the night, and the images sent to Dr. Land at Mission Support Earth. Taly and Dr. Land will later compare notes and examine the soil characteristics—clay, silt, sandy, or other categories. This simple analysis will inform the important decision to utilize the soil for either building or for agriculture.
She starts preparing for her Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA, outside the controlled environment of the habitat. Her 3-hour EVA today has been rescheduled due to a weather forecast warning of dust storm developing few km away. Electronics are still not able to withstand the abrasive dust storms that occur on Mars, and EVA’s are not permitted during adverse weather condition. Shortening her EVA to less than 1 H, Taly puts on her EVA suit and goes outside the habitat to run dimensional analysis on the communications and power grids, and check the robodiggers’ progress. Taly affectionately treats the small 3-D printed robodiggers swarm, that dig around the compound and greenhouse, as pets. Yes, they’re adaptive and light and perhaps even a touch cute with their little tweaks, but still, it makes no sense to get attached to the robots, of all things.
She carefully puts on her EVA Mars suit, made for solo operation, and designed for extra joint flexibility. It’s lightweight at 25 Martian kilos. Dotted terrain points, maps, and some vital info is displayed straight in front of her on the Heads Up Display (HUD). Her Personal Life Support System (PLSS) includes water, comms and breathable air mixture for several hours of activity. Internal sensors monitor her heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and temperature. The airtight seals in the external pressure chamber hiss as she enters it, and then, Taly heads out into the red Martian vastness surrounding her as far as the eye can see.
People are likely to land on Mars in 20-30 years. The first landing will be an historical event of massive proportions and with unprecedented implications for the future of humankind.
But, Taly is not on Mars. Taly is, in fact, very much on planet Earth. People are likely to land on Mars in 20-30 years. The first landing will be an historical event of massive proportions and with unprecedented implications for the future of humankind. Additionally, it could signal the beginning of human settlements throughout the solar system, a true continuation of the moon landing, which makes the work at Israel’s Desert Mars Analog Ramon Station very timely and relevant.
An array of sophisticated technology is needed for such an achievement to materialize successfully. Some of it has to do with the journey to the red planet and the rest of it with our living on it or underground. Supporting technologies have to do with monitoring of resources consumption, power generation and waste management, safety, crew psyche and physiological health issues, communications, underground to surface mobility, weather information, and successful execution of the mission scientific goals.
Beyond the obvious need for reliable technology, there will be other crucial skills. Educational and learning systems should focus on developing support for a spacefaring human-kind: Team work, diversity, multicultural influences, and self-reliance will be among the crucial skills for future Martians. When learned at a young age these skills could become second nature. Currently, high school students in Israel can experience an analog mission in a Mars-like setting in the Negev desert in the south of the country, much like the day to day of “Taly” you read earlier on. Through D-MARS options for short term workshops or several months of the “Young Astronaut Academy” program, Israel is preparing students to be future space ambassadors and explorers, as well as creating models for students in other parts of the world.
In our next article, we hope to provoke thought and action with a deeper dive into the myriad collaboration and communication skills a spacefaring society needs to nurture.