Beyond building the right spacecraft to send manned missions to Mars and the technological challenges that these crews will be facing, a group of scientific experts have stated that dealing with jetlag and personality clashes will be among the biggest difficulties that astronauts will be facing when they eventually head to Mars.
According to the Daily Mail, besides jetlag and conflicts between astronauts, ugly interior design will also, surprisingly, be another thing for scientists to grapple with when they make their long journey to Mars. These obstacles were recently discussed in London last week in an event which was set up by the Mohammed bin Rashid Global Space Challenge.
During the meeting, experts spoke about the many difficulties that astronauts on manned missions to Mars would be facing, and Dr. Federico Caprotti from the University of Exeter explained that psychological issues would among the biggest problems that crews traveling to Mars would be dealing with, noting that astronauts onboard the International Space Station have a much easier time with some of these problems, given its close proximity to Earth.
“The biggest hurdles to Mars settlement are not technical but psychological. Long-range missions raise psychological questions that current knowledge in space science cannot answer. For example, the International Space Station enables a quick return and therefore a sense of psychological closeness to the Earth. Mars does not allow this, and that brings a risk of intense pressure. There is also the issue of interplanetary jetlag.”
Interplanetary 'jetlag' and personality clashes are biggest obstacles facing a mission to Mars: 'The biggest hurdles to Mars settlement are not technical but psychological,' said Dr Federico Caprotti, of the University of Exeter. https://t.co/G4aJahmRkR pic.twitter.com/n5bKFAkutd— RushReads (@RushReads) December 31, 2018
With the journey to Mars taking as long as up to 400 days, which would be a long time for astronauts to be stuck with each other, this could lead to some serious personality clashes, although it is thought that plasma engines, which are currently being experimented on, may help to speed these astronauts to their destination a little bit faster.
Still, as Dr. Caprotti noted, if astronauts are hankering for contact with their fellow humans on Earth, there would be delays in communication, and these could conceivably be psychologically detrimental.
“The psychological effects of a journey that long, combined with the lack of real-time communications with Earth as signals take four to 24 minutes could be huge.”
One scientist who took part in the London meeting has stated that in his experience of setting up space missions, 40 to 50 percent of astronauts simply do not get along with one another once they have actually ventured into space. Dr. Steven Palmer, from the University of Exeter, stated that even differences in the taste of interior design could potentially lead to clashes.
“That would be a major problem on a 400-day return journey and the intervening mission on Mars. We also heard about a mission in a remote location on Earth where someone painted some walls in a color others didn’t like – and this caused resentment and damaged team cohesion. Many people think a Mars mission should be manned by ‘natural leaders’, but organizations like the British Antarctic Survey have found that you need people who can compromise.”
While the team of experts who met in London agreed that there will be many different psychological issues for astronauts to deal with when they make their journey to Mars, the good news is that all of these can be mitigated with enough foresight and planning.