mars on earth


New Planet (1921), by Konstantin Yuon (image from Wikipedia).

I was yesterday linking to a project which is carrying out a study into possible future cultural utilisation of the International Space Station.

Culture is a difficult thing. I cite from Wikipedia:

Different definitions of “culture” reflect different theoretical bases for understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity. Anthropologists most commonly use the term “culture” to refer to the universal human capacity to classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically. This capacity is long been taken as a defining feature of the genus Homo. However, primatologists such as Jane Goodall have identified aspects of culture among our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

So yes – I think it is important to think about space exploration and its cultural implications. This refers not only to the culture of reflections on the experience of space exploration itself, but also on the altered conditions of human living and communication conditions in space:

There is a quite famous project called Mars Analogue Research Station Programme. The Mars Analogue Research Station (MARS) Programme is an international effort spearheaded by The Mars Society to establish a network of prototype research centres where scientists and engineers can live and work as if they were on Mars. Each of the MARS research centres comprises a prototype of the Mars Habitat Unit.

Currently, three of these units have been constructed:

* One in the Canadian High Arctic (the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station)
* One in the high desert plateau of Utah (the Mars Desert Research Station)
* One due for deployment to Iceland (the European Mars Research Station).

The Mars Habitat or “mars on earth”-units are multi-deck units, providing a combination of living and working space for crews of up to 6 people at a time. Each unit is some 8 metres in diameter and stands some 9 to 11 metres in height, offering between two and three decks of interior living and working space.

So the units are pretty small. However still bigger as the current size of the ISS-living space, which currently usually hosts only one or two humans.

The Canadian unit is usually inhabitated over one summer. Moreover the mars on earth units are airlocked that means if someone is leaving the unit then he/she has to wear a space suit. So people in the experiment are living pretty close together for a quite long time.

The goals of the earth on mars mission are (I cite from wikipedia)

* What is the best number for an exploratory team on Mars – four people, six people, more?
* How well do support systems and equipment function “in the field”?
* What are the best designs for EVA suits?
* How easy is it to maintain equipment in isolated conditions?
* How are group dynamics going to operate in such a closed environment?

Its been some years that I saw a TV documentation about this project, may be it was the one of Discovery channel. I think to remember that the original intention was to to have people stay for longer than just a summer, as a Mars exploration would take longer than that – but may be I am wrong. I remember that one mission had to be aborted for two reasons: Firstly the air supply had to be reenforced due to a miscalculation of the air consumption of bacteria in the soil of the greenhouse and secondly due to complicated group dynamics.

This is not the rural 19th century anymore. There were and are a lot of experimentations on different living forms in society and on a more private level. But we are still animals if I look at this world and so this mars on earth research on group dynamics in space is important.

We feel hate, desire, indifference a.s.o. We have to communicate this in a decent way. This is culture. And it is a first step.

So I am not sure wether UK-based artscatalysts are planning something on the new European mars-on-earth-station in Iceland, but I may try to find out….

->The marsonearth weblog

->google mars

supplement made on Sep. 23, 2011: It seems the TV report I am mentioning above was not about the Mars Analogue Research Station, but about the biosphere 2 experiment. Please refer also to the more recent randform post “O2 or not O2

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