Mars Exchange
How will safety be ensured? Arno Wielders and the technical aspects of Mars One’s mission

How will safety be ensured? Arno Wielders and the technical aspects of Mars One’s mission

by Suzanne Flinkenflögel on Thursday, 6th October 2016 in Inside 360, People, Arno Wielders, Technology

Arno Wielders, co-founder and CTO of Mars One, currently divides his time between Mars One and working at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) of the European Space Agency as a payload study manager for new planetary mission studies. In this and other subsequent stories, Arno Wielders addresses some of the questions surrounding the technical aspects of Mars One's mission to Mars.

How will astronauts receive supplies?

An important part of the mission is when the first group of four are on the surface of Mars and the resupply of the Mars settlement needs to occur. A couple of recent developments are important for this process. The development of additive manufacturing and 3D printing will become an important aspect of the living-of-the-land philosophy which Mars One will follow. Spare parts should be manufactured / created on Mars as much as possible. Of course, in the beginning a lot of resupply will be needed from Earth to ensure that the colony can thrive. However, local production from local materials (like metals, plastic, food and construction materials) can occur from the beginning already, first experimental and later as a baseline part of the resources supply chain. Those systems work on Earth and, with adaptation and rigorous testing, can also be used on Mars. A second important development is that once people are on the surface of Mars, we will have already flown 8 missions to Mars and a significant cost reduction in launch and lander prize will make deliveries to Mars much less costly. The full details on how many spare parts are needed can only be decided once we have developed all the systems needed to bring people to Mars, and once the the necessary lifetime calculations of all units and components have been performed. It is very difficult to compare the lifetime and spare part philosophy of Mars systems to systems in microgravity since gravity is a very important factor in these systems.

What will be done to ensure the safety of astronauts?

Safety is an important factor to consider with the Mars One project, and it needs to balanced with the risks associated with the project. We are bringing four humans to Mars and this will be the first time someone will be doing this. Any new endeavour always contains dangers that can’t be predicted and therefore can not be pre-countered, like the tragic accident of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, for example. By hiring the right companies and the relevant experts we are making sure that we have taken any reasonable measure to minimise the risks for the people going to Mars.

However some risks have to be identified and accepted, otherwise no person will leave Earth to go to Mars. It is of paramount importance for Mars One to be completely transparent to all the potential applicants and to inform them of all the risks in this project. One of the risks is the radiation levels that people will encounter on the way to Mars (around 400 mSv) and on the surface of Mars. Although this is major health risk, the levels measured on Mars by Curiosity’s RAD instrument show that this risk is manageable with careful shielding on the surface of Mars and on the way to Mars during major solar flares. Also to minimise risks, the applicants will be trained for a long time, at least 6 years, in which they will have to learn the inside-out of all the major subsystems which are keeping them alive during their voyage to Mars and their stay on the surface of Mars. Furthermore, the applicants will be partly responsible for improving the systems they rely on while they are on the surface of Mars to increase theirs and future settlers living standards. We want to ensure that people can stay on the surface for a long time because we want to open up another world for humanity. While we do understand that we can not bring a large number of people to Mars, we do know we can create a small colony which in time will grow and become largely self-sustaining. This is not an easy task, but it is a task worth committing to. What should be clear to all is that spaceflight is hard and potentially dangerous, but that is part of being a pioneer!

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