I was the space doc for HI-SEAS IV, a one-year mission to simulated Mars. We went, we scienced, and we returned to Earth. Now I’m the scientist in residence at the St. Louis Science Center. I still work to promote space, science, and healthy life on Earth. The the tales from that journey can be found on my professional blog, livefrommars. This is my personal blog.
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18 years of messing around with satellites, Mars suits, supercomputers, MRIs, social psychology experiments, writing and medicine have finally whittled themselves into a salient mission: go to Mars, grow food, do science, don’t kill each other.
Does that last issue surprise you? It turns out that people – not plants, propulsion or planetary weather, are the big X factor in space travel. In the known Universe, people are the unknown. A machine can only break in so many ways. Micrometeorites can be shielded from and solar flares forewarned. People are constantly inventing new ways to break themselves and each other. Space scientists, and scientists in general, would like to be able to predict when this is going to happen, how and why. They would like to be able to keep one step ahead of the circumstances that lead to a crew breaking down on the way to or back from a mission far, far away.
So, how do we keep them healthy, productive and NOT killing either other during long duration space missions. Short answer – and I’m not weaseling or waffling here, just specifying: by paying attention to all three aspects of health at the same time.
On Earth, physical health considered #1. In space, physical, mental and social health are of equal and paramount importance. On Earth, if you are in a bad head space, you retreat to your house, your room, your car. If you don’t feel like being social, in a funk, etc, you avoid people, or maybe just that one person who is annoying you. If you have a headache or stub your toe, you take it easy for a while. Welcome to space – there is no hiding from yourself or your crew. EVER.
How would that change your life – to have to be on your game 100% of the time for years?
That’s what we’re about to find out.