Wednesday 18 February 2015

Man on Mars in this Decade?

In 1961 US President John F Kennedy set NASA the task of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade and returning him safely to Earth. In July 1969 the world saw this achievement on live TV... or the supposed achievement, see: If the Apollo 11 moon landing was real, then the round trip to the moon took just over eight days. The problem with the layout of our solar system is that after the moon there's no other major landing place close by. The nearest next ones are hundreds of times further away. Venus is the closest planet to the Earth and it is far too hot to land on; Mars is the next closest. Travelling to Mars by rocket is perfectly possible and this has been done many times with unmanned craft like Viking, Phoenix and Curiosity. However, sending humans there is another matter; the complexities of manned spaceflight compared to a probe mission aren't doubled, they're squared. There would need to be an independent life support system on board the craft which would need to be far more sophisticated than any on an orbiting space station, which is supplied by rockets from the ground. There would need to be a miniature farm onboard the spacecraft to grow food, and all air and water would need to be recycled. The crew could suffer health risks from cosmic radiation (not a problem during the moon landings we're told); solar flares are powerful enough to kill even as far away as Mars. Low gravity for long periods of time is also not good for human health as astronauts on Mir and the International Space Station have found out. Going to Mars would be a round trip of at least two to three years and nobody knows what psychological effects this could have on the crew; but we know sailors on board ships cut off from the outside world can lose their minds if their voyage is too long. Also a manned mission to Mars will have to do what no unmanned one ever has: include a return journey. The spacecraft must carry with it the means for the first landers to get back to Earth, so they would need the fuel, resources and hardware to do so. The concept of a manned mission to Mars has been the basis of many science fiction stories over the years, yet the first practical plans only date back to the 1950's. America, the Soviet Union, and more recently China and post-Soviet Russia all have produced proposals for landing people on the Red Planet. However these proposed missions are only just beginning to be taken seriously. The most recent propositions though have an added twist of controversy because a lot of them are "Mars to Stay".

"Mars to Stay" is a mission concept of a manned landing on Mars with no return journey included. Astronauts on a Mars to Stay mission would be heading to Mars to live there indefinitely, to build a permanent human settlement on the planet and make it their home, possibly for the rest of their lives. The advantages are that the difficulty and costs would be greatly reduced by not having to bring the astronauts back to Earth. Nevertheless they would have to be willing to leave everything they know and love behind them, including never seeing friends or family again. It's always possible that in the future a fully-developed transport infrastructure could be built serving Mars and Earth before the end of a natural human lifetime, so allowing the first generation settlers to return home if they wish, but that is of course definitely not guaranteed. There have been many eager volunteers though; plenty of people love the idea of being a Martian pioneer so much so that they'd be willing to make that sacrifice. This kind of pioneer spirit has been seen before; some of the first European explorers of the Americas and Australia were also on a one-way ticket. The Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is one of the loudest advocates for this kind of adventure, although he has not applied to join up personally. There's a very good fictional story about a Mars to Stay mission called the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, see: One of the characters in the story changes his mind once he gets to Mars and becomes very homesick for Earth, specifically where he lived in the south of France; but by then it's too late. According to the marketing literature, a lot of Mars to Stay projects claim to be in the advance planning stage, particularly Mars One. This is a privately-funded enterprise based in the Netherlands that proposes to send four people to Mars by 2025 to live there permanently. The organization wants to launch the first rockets in 2018, just unmanned craft carrying equipment and supplies for the future Mars colony; and then the actual humans departing on a manned rocket in 2024, see: Almost three thousand people initially applied; these have now been whittled down through interviews and assessment to one hundred, the number who eventually travelled in Robinson's fictional books. However in this case there will be just four winners and they will be chosen out of that pool of one hundred. The Mars One project is planning a reality TV extravaganza following the training and competition of the selection process; eventually the series is intended to be filmed on the spaceflight and in the colony itself on Mars. Among the one hundred on the shortlist are five Britons including Hannah Earnshaw, a student at Durham University. She says she is doing it for the good of humanity; it's our next evolutionary step, see: She is one of those who would agree to leave her home planet forever before she reaches the age of forty. She might be the new Neil Armstrong, climbing down the ladder, obviously with a new rehearsed "one small step..." slogan to proclaim when she plants her foot on the ground (In Robinson's books this was simply "Well, here we are."). There's just one small problem, could the issues which led to the faking of the moon landings recur, or other issues crop up?
These problems are diverse and many-fold, but I can arrange them into four main categories. Firstly there are the matters that were paramount in the decision to fake the Apollo missions, the hazards and uncertainties of the endeavour: radiation risks, rocket malfunctions, other unforeseen accidents, see: These will all be increased by a massive factor on a space voyage to Mars. Secondly there are secrets relating to Mars that the government know about and don't want the rest of us to. We have already seen evidence of this in anomalous and suspicious data that have emerged from the unmanned landings on Mars; this has recently been discussed on the new series of Richplanet TV, see: Mars probably has indigenous life and NASA have already been sued for attempting to suppress this revelation, see: There is a precedent for this because in 1959, at the dawn of the space age, the Brookings Institute published a paper warning NASA that the discovery of life out in space could have major psychological and cultural impacts on human society. In the eventuality of life being found Brookings all but recommended a cover-up. Whether or not life exists on Mars today is not the only quandary; if it does exist then it's probably just simple single-cell organisms. However there's evidence to suggest that Mars was once home to far more advanced life-forms in the distant past. Structures have been photographed on Mars that appear to be artificial, most famously the Face on Mars; this is just one object of interest in an entire complex called Cydonia, see: There are many others that have emerged since. This is not as implausible as the Skeptics will tell you. It's been known since the first probes went to Mars that the planet was not always as dry and cold as it is today; long ago water flowed on its surface. There were rivers, lakes and even oceans. This means that back then Mars must have had a denser atmosphere and it must have been an awful lot warmer; very similar to what Earth like today. Could life have evolved on Mars that was as complex as that on Earth? Maybe an intelligent animal species emerged that was capable of building such structures as Cydonia. At some point a terrible cataclysm befell the planet, about four billion years ago scientists reckon, maybe the emergence of Olympus Mons and the enormous Tharsis volcanoes. This killed off almost all the life and turned Mars into what it is today: dry, airless and freezing cold. But the constructions remained and we can still see them today. For whatever reason, the authorities are very keen to keep this a secret from the general public.

There are also Martian conspiracies of a more contemporary kind, particularly the reality of intelligences present that are native to neither Earth nor Mars. This is connected to the cagey attitude space programmes have always had relating to the sightings of UFO's by astronauts in space. From the first rockets to the Space Shuttle and ISS, astronauts have seen things in space that simply should not be there and there has been both official secrecy and a tacit cultural climate preventing them telling the general public about it. In fact just a couple of months ago the Italian ISS astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti saw an unidentified object while on a spacewalk which made her exclaim aloud. A live TV feed was in progress and she immediately was hushed into silence by her Russian colleague, see: She was new on the space station at the time and clearly nobody had yet had the chance to take her to one side and have a quiet word: "Samantha... erm... there's a few things you need to know..." On a mission to Mars this cover-up scam will be increasingly difficult to maintain, especially if the Mars One reality TV show is transmitting. Also just a few days ago a mysterious haze was spotted by astronomers in the Martian atmosphere; is this connected to UFO activity? Could aliens have a base on Mars as some claim they do on Earth, see: If there are bases on Mars, are they all alien? And this brings us to the fourth problem: the secret space programme. There's distinct evidence to suggest that while the Cold War powers were building lumbering chemical rockets to haul tiny capsules into low Earth orbit and send electronic monitors to the planets, a secret space programme was underway in parallel that was far more innovative and successful. Away from public scrutiny this did not waste time with obsolete and dangerous rocket technology; it used free energy and antigravity devices that had been developed in Nazi Germany and had also been back engineered from the salvaged wreckage of crashed flying saucers. Several witnesses involved in the covert space projects have spoken out, like Edgar Fouche, see: Others have claimed that there are already human habitations on Mars and other planets, see: This might sound like a far-fetched whimsy, but we must take into account the volume of reports from the very credible whistleblowers who say NASA has edited the presence of artificial structures out of its photographs taken of the dark side of the moon, see: If you have the abilities alleged by the secret space programme then why not use them? If bases have been built on the moon then why not Mars too? Why not elsewhere? These are the predicaments faced by those who wish to keep this knowledge confidential while a private organization is preparing to send a group of people to Mars, a planet that they assume nobody has ever set foot on before, using existing rocket technology that will take a year or more to make the trip and could easily kill them before they arrive. How do they think they can keep up the pretence? It would be like sending the 16th century pilgrims across the Atlantic in the Mayflower to the modern USA and try to keep them convinced that they're in the North America of five hundred years ago. What are you to say to the Mars One astronauts? "When you get to Mars do you mind not looking at that bit?" For this reason I suspect that Mars One will never get off the ground, nor will any of its governmental, quasi-governmental or corporate sister projects. Either that or the gatekeepers will pull another fake mission. The Apollo moon landings happened before I was born, but now I'm alive and I'm ready for action if we're shown any supposed "mission to Mars" on our TV sets during the next few years. If there is any hint of fraud in progress depend on me to find out and let you HPANWO-readers know.

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