From one Satellite to a Planet

What we might learn in one area often helps on long adventures.

Apollo 11 mission. We can still learn much from the moon.

I still remember the day the first men landed on the moon, the family sitting around the television. Of course, at that time, I didn’t have much conception, but the memory stayed.

 **            I hadn’t thought about this in a long time, but while reading about the efforts to learn more about Mars, from satellites, to probes circling the red planet, to landing on the orb, and now with all the talk about sending people to a very distant world, I wonder if we’re missing some wonderful opportunities in speeding up the process so to speak.

                The people at NASA, often teams, while working on ways to learn more about Mars, went through many trials and errors, perhaps more errors, but those “mistakes” or “unanticipated problems” created questions that caused them to look for answers.  For instance, when a prop to hold a solar panel went awry, they had to learn why, but also how to utilize their information to continue a then successful mission.  When communications went off-line, they had to work on the Earth, in labs, to attempt recreating the situation in order to solve, sometimes realizing things after the fact.  And when satellites and probes were lost, malfunctioned, crashed into the planet, or landed and stopped working altogether, they had to go back to the drawing board, sometimes reinventing the entire thinking on next missions.  Such is often the way of exploration.   I imagine, long ago, when people attempted to cross oceans, the learning curve was quite steep. How much more in deep space?    

To a planet that might open doors of pondering.

                At closest, Earth and Mars are 35 million miles apart, and from what I’ve read, we’re closest together every two years, though exact mileage differs. For comparison, our moon is about 250,000 miles above us. That’s 1/140th the distance to Mars at it’s closest. And the actual flight mileage is much longer.  Which means, should we ever land humans on this planet, depending upon the technology, they would either have to leave pretty soon after getting there or remain for two years before the return flight home. 

                However, it would seem to me, that other than being the first to land on the red planet, a more purposeful reason to travel would be to learn:  set up a station with all the equipment for living and investigations, but also with equipment that can repair and improve once landed.  And that gets me back to the early part of this article.

                Mars is an incredibly long way from us.  It also has a far lesser gravitational pull, no magnetic field like our own, and an incredibly far thinner atmosphere, that I believe doesn’t always remain the same.  There’s so much we still don’t know.  And of course, that’s a reason to explore.  But what can we learn from the past, but also from common sense and information? We can utilize what we have closer to us, then extrapolate to the farther reaches of our solar system.  We see, time and again, whenever we do venture, no matter what, problems and tragedy often occur.  The best we can do is learn along the way, and as such, better prepare for a long venture.  Lunch bags won’t do.  And I don’t know, if like the movie, we can turn the soil into one capable of growing plants.  Time will tell.  But here is a proposal, something I’m sure they’ve thought about, but which I understand the need for public support to garner the funds. 

Our moon is only a three day trip. Always with us.

A mock-up idea of stationing astronauts on the moon.

                Before we consider sending humans to Mars, where they would be months, perhaps a year, from any help, we could use our own moon to work out many of the issues, including problems that we don’t yet see.  And we never see all the problems because adventures require risk.  For human beings never see all the things that might happen, some we never could conceive until we ventured forth. And I guarantee, on such a long trip, and amazing and filled with ideas it is, the reality will bring forth far more questions then answers.

                How do astronauts deal with less gravity over time?  What are the psychological issues that might and will come up on such a long venture? How do they “investigate” and work out problems that happen along the way?  What resources will they need at their fingertips? How do they “survive” for months on end while living on an airless world? What do they do when they’re sick?  What do they do when communication, computer, and other technical problems arise?  And so much more.  Actually, I wrote a long list, but that’s for another article.  However, only three days away, should we encounter problems while working out being on another “world” closer to home, such that, those problems are better worked out before heading to Mars, and there will be more problems when we arrive, we would have the resources to send from the Earth, arriving shortly.  Well… three days. 

                We have a wonderful moon we see at night.  Before venturing millions of miles away, we should set up stations on our moon, investigate, for I believe we have still much to learn (We still don’t know everything about our own planet, and we live here.  And we’ll never know everything about the Earth.), and work out a couple years of life on the moon.  The data will be very useful when heading off to other planets.  For I would love astronauts on Mars, perhaps one day on Neptune, bringing forth wonders of information that we might all read and learn.  And an adventure planned with better preparation and study is one that would garner more quality information.

**Elon Musk is probably working out so many problems we haven’t considered, but even he cannot see everything. If he could, he would be far richer than he is already. But with his resources, he could work out so much closer to home, such that, when we do eventually send people to Mars, the chances for success, including real learning about Mars, will be higher and fill the books. Best to work out as much here, and closer, prior to extending to the outer reaches of our solar system. I certainly would want to read. I imagine all so many others would as well.

**Imagine the last time one ever went on an adventure or vacation, for two weeks or longer, and not one hitch. Then multiply that distance to Mars, with no help of any kind anywhere nearby. Should anything go wrong and beyond equipment present, there’s so mechanic’s garage, no hotel, no hospital, and no road service. All necessary and equipment for the unforeseen, must be ready at a moment’s notice.

***One additional item (an aside): We never know, if we’re following the rabbit, what we might discover or realize. What’s around the corner is never fully predicted. This is not just about an adventure. It’s in everything every day, if we’re honestly looking. The next realization may be building up on future understanding, and as such, we are responsible not to give up what we understand to others simply because of social or political pressures. This is key. Not rhetoric. Honest discovery.

**One more thought: While we are living in times of incredible technology, what is real and honest supersedes any adventure. As children, we all want adventure, or most of us. As we get older, we realize principles and honesty are far more important.

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