Hughesair (Inflection Point)

Retired physician and air taxi operator, science writer and part time assistant professor, these editorials cover a wide range of topics. Mostly non political, mostly true, I write more from experience than from research and more from science than convention. Subjects cover medicine, Alaska aviation, economics, technology and an occasional book review. The Floatplane book is out there. I am currently working on Hippocrates a History of Medicine and Globalism. Enjoy!

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Location: Homer, Alaska, United States

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mars in 2018 and the Inspiration Mars Foundation

Dennis Tito, the first space tourist funded his own trip into space in 2001. A former scientist and engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Tito applied the statistical tools of aerospace to the analysis of market risks. He established Wilshire Associates in Santa Monica in 1972. With that financial success and wealth, Tito turned back to his love of aerospace engineering and space flight.  Sometime prior to February Tito and a group of insiders formed the Inspiration Mars Foundation. (I’m looking for the details.) The website names Jonathan Clark chief medical officer, Taber MacCallum chief technical and Jane Poynter in charge of life support.

On February 27, 2013, the Inspiration Mars Foundation held a press conference in the National Press Club to announce the plan of the foundation to launch a mission to Mars in 2018. Philanthropist Dennis Tito is going to totally fund the foundation ($100 million) initially. Tito voiced his intention to send a flight to Mars on January 5, 2018 when Mars moves close to Earth in favorable alignment. Stating that the technology is already in place and that the issues that need to be overcome are only the requirements of a 72 week trip. He acknowledges the psychological and physical challenges for the humans involved, but with perhaps an underestimation of the radiation issue.

Technology may not be the number one obstacle to a safe flight to Mars. The cosmic radiation along the way may exceed the level of human tolerance. Looking beyond Mars and our Solar System, the deleterious challenges of radiation and the limitations of shielding will be even greater. Avoiding the radiation, shielding or engineering humans to withstand radiation offer the only alternatives. The first choice of avoiding the radiation may prove the only safe one.

A version of “Avatar” the movie, may offer the only presently feasible way for humans to live in the cosmos beyond. Aside from the movie, we are making rapid strides along these lines with Drones and other robotic applications. Soon we may launch unmanned fighter planes. Think of experiencing a visit to a distant planet or solar system in virtual reality while controlling the vision, hearing and movement of a life like robot. Lag-time will be an obstacle. Quantum entanglement and the quantum computer may resolve that issue. The traveler might live in a lifelike replica of the space vehicle and operate a control module not unlike the Da Vinci surgical robot. Can we build a true human Avatar? More easily, I think, than meeting the challenge of shielding or adapting to the radiation. The braging rights might not be as great but the financial model might be more sustainable and expandable to flights beyond. Are we ready to invite a couple to forfit their DNA to science? We will probably get volunteers, but they should know the risks -- and the certain cost.

This is an aviation venture; that pioneering spirit is in our DNA, but before we get to hyper-drive and genetically modified humans, avatars might be a more efficient way to go.



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