By 3news.co.nz staff
US astronaut, doctor and engineer Robert Satcher spoke in Auckland this week about life on Mars, his own experience in space, and why astronauts must constantly work out to avoid their bones crumbling.
Mr Satcher says human colonies living on Mars is no longer the stuff of science fiction thanks to technological advances and extensive research in recent years.
Can humans live on Mars?
“Can we survive on Mars? Yes I do believe we can. That's not just something that comes from what I think, there is a lot of people who have studied that question.”
He says unmanned missions to the planet have provided scientists with invaluable information, such as the specific atmosphere, composition and temperature of the planet.
"With that information we can say with certainty that we know people could survive there but they can’t survive without building the necessary enclosures and they’d have to actually build a colony of sorts in order to be able to survive there."
Mr Satcher says in a way humans are already living on Mars, or rather similar conditions, thanks to the International Space Station that orbits the earth.
He says the temperatures and environment around the space station are in fact harsher than that of Mars.
"The temperatures there are close to absolute zero and there is no atmosphere, it’s a vacuum in outer space.
"We have the International Space Station there with its own self contained environment and people are constantly aboard, they’ve constantly been aboard there for last 10 years."
He says if humans can live on the space station for a decade, they can one day build a similar dwelling on Mars.
How does living in space affect the human body?
Astronauts living in space adhere by a strict workout routine.
Mr Satcher says without it their bones would become so weak they would be unable to walk once they returned to earth.
"It just feels like your floating all the time and as a result of that you’re not using your muscles, especially in your lower extremity like you use here on the ground.
Astronauts’ work out for two hours a day, doing a mix of both resistance and cardiovascular training, this helps them to maintain bone and muscle mass.
Can pets survive in space?
If humans did move to Mars in the next century could they take their pets with them?
Mr Satcher says of course.
Forget Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - dogs, cats and monkeys were the first real space explorers.
"The history of the space programme is interesting in that the first rockets with living beings that were launched actually didn’t have humans they had animals,” he says.
"They are actually the real space pioneers.”
What is it like in space?
Mr Satcher says space is the ultimate inspiration, as humans cannot recreate it no matter how hard they try.
"It puts us in an environment that we can’t recreate in any other kind of way and that kind of serves as the mother of invention,” he says.
Contrary to the old concept of space being isolating and lonely, Mr Satcher says thanks to modern technology astronauts are connected to earth in ways never thought possible.
"You have a lot of benefits of modern technology; you have internet, you can make phone calls from the International Space Station, so that kind of minimises the feeling of isolation - you still feel connected to everybody on the ground, which is a good thing.”
Future of space exploration
The NASA programmes cost around $18-19 billion to fund per year, an investment Mr Satcher says is “tremendously wise” given the positive benefits of the programme.
He says it not only drives technological advances but also inspires everyday people in their lives.
"I’ve never gone anywhere and found people who weren’t inspired by the space programme,” he says.
source: newshub archive