Castle Point Astronomy Club
1969-2019 - 50th Anniversary Year
Castle Point Astronomy Club Diary
April 2019 by Dave Stratton
Castle Point Astronomy Club

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Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Mike introduced Gary Auker for his talk: NASA's Human Mars Mission Plans

Gary said that he used to work for E2V and knew a couple in the audience, but had moved to Airbus about five years ago.

He began by telling us about the hazards of the journey both to the astronauts and Mars itself with the transfer of bacteria from Earth to Mars and of course alien stuff back to Earth.

During the trip the travellers will be exposed to radiation which comes from the Sun and galactic radiation. The Russians had a shorter trip where they only stayed for a few days then returned whilst the Americans favoured a much longer stay. The American way was better as the exposure was similar in both with much longer stay for the American idea.

He outlined the differences between the two planets pointing out that Earth’s land area was the same as Mars due to most of its surface being covered by water.

He recapped Martian trips since 1976, 1997, 2004 and 2012 and plans for 2020. We saw pics of the various rovers that have grown vastly in size.

The plan is to bring samples back and this involves super hygiene. We saw a pic of a lunar astronaut just got back in to the base station whose suit was covered in dust – the astronaut said he could taste its metallic taste. It will be quite a task.

NASA Astronauts have a career limit of how much radiation they can experience and a mars mission is much more hazardous that a Moon mission.

Another serious issue is loss of bone density – an astronaut operating in zero G will experience more loss in a month (1 - 2%) than an elderly person on Earth will lose in a year (1 – 1.5%).

Gary showed a chart that indicated the journey times dependant on the relative positions of Earth and Mars. He showed us a chart indicating the various rockets and their capabilities for past present and future. Faster rockets will of course mean less exposure to radiation.

Gary advised us about Deep Space Gateway (DSG) which is a space station orbiting the Moon that will be a stepping stone for deep space exploration.

Apparently the Trump administration has made it clear that it wants Americans back on the Moon.

Gary said that the drive is currently to bring down the costs of space exploration. Private enterprise of people like Elon Musk with his reusable rockets have made very large advances. We saw a chart that indicates that today’s costs are very much lower than when things got started in the 1960s.

Gary finished by emphasizing that the prime reason for space exploration is to find and develop a long term survival strategy for humans if needs must in the future.

Watch this space.

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