Mars Missions Should Include Funny People, Researcher Says

A photo of the Mars Rover
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / Getty Images

A viral story made the rounds late last year reporting that NASA had determined that future missions to Mars may be all-female, due to an effort by the space agency to prevent sexual contact between astronauts. The “Mars Missions May Be All-Female” headline was self-evidently ridiculous since, of course, sex would in no way be precluded by all-woman missions.

As the Inquisitr reported upon looking into the story, it had originated in a speech by a former astronaut, who had claimed to have heard about a “secret report,” which she had never actually seen, in which NASA had floated the idea of all-female crews. The report, if it existed, was filed many years ago and there’s no indication that it’s currently part of NASA’s thinking.

Now, there’s another surprising report out, with another unconventional idea for future Mars missions. According to an article in the Guardian this week, whenever the first human mission to Mars takes place, it “may need onboard comedians.”

However, the interview itself makes it clear that NASA would be considering whether to send an astronaut known to be funny, rather than, say, taking a professional comedian and training him to be an astronaut.

A researcher at the University of Florida, Jeffrey Johnson, has been studying the group dynamics of crews that spend long missions in such places as Antarctica, and he has studied the importance of having a funny person along on the crew.

“These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale,” Johnson told the Guardian. “When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It’s vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It’s mission critical.”

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The news was greeted on Twitter with lots of jokes volunteering disgraced comedians (like Louis C.K.) or hated ones (like Dane Cook) for years-long interplanetary exile.

Johnson has been “working with” NASA “to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions,” the newspaper said, although it appears it’s a long way from being determined whether that research would include a dedicated funny person on a space mission. At any rate, NASA’s first mission to Mars isn’t expected to take off until the 2030s.