Humans in Space - BBC Radio 4

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Guy Fennimore
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Humans in Space - BBC Radio 4

Post by Guy Fennimore »

I've received the following from the BBC....

Humans in Space

Wednesdays 26th July and 3rd August 2006

BBC Radio 4 at 9pm


Should humans return to the Moon, go on to Mars or even deeper into space? This programme is a thought provoking exploration of the mental and physical challenges facing humans travelling in future space flights.

Later this year the government will have to decide whether to support a solar system space mission led by humans. Frank Close was Chairman of the Royal Astronomical Society commission set up to evaluate the scientific case for human exploration of space and presents this programme. Frank, Ken Pounds and John Dudeney have heard evidence for and against human involvement in the next major European space mission, the Aurora long-term programme of Solar System exploration. The challenge for astronauts of the future is two fold; physical and mental. What would it be like to travel around Britain in a motor home with five other people for three years when you can't ever go outside? The reality of spaceflight is even worse. Once the engines have been fired and the shuttle has left Earth for Mars, there’s no turning back. The Earth would get smaller and smaller until it is no more than a point in the sky. What if a crew member goes crazy and imperils the mission? This programme connects with people who have experienced this kind of psychological isolation and finds out what type of person would make the best crew member.

Stewardesses on Concorde were restricted in their flying hours because of radiation exposure at altitude. How do astronauts on a six month space flight overcome the problem of a solar flare erupting and showering them with cosmic rays? This is just one of the myriad complex scientific solutions to problems encountered when humans travel in space. Can we really ‘terraform’ Mars when we get there? What are the hazards to be overcome to set up a home of sorts on the red planet? The physiological damage of living in a weightless environment must be considered. Bones that are weight-bearing are reabsorbed rapidly by the body in space. While the physical damage can be quantified the microbial question remains at the heart of the debate. In ‘The War of the Worlds’ it was the Earthly bugs that killed off the Martians, but what risks might astronauts face when exposed to Martian bugs? What subtle evolution might occur during a 3 year tour of duty in such stressed conditions? And afterwards will our astronauts be like a novel species; while they are immune to their own bugs we might not be so lucky…..? (Much in the same way that HIV is harmless to apes and yet devastating to humans.)

Ultimately what exactly do we want to learn from the Moon and Mars and do we really need to send humans to find out the answers? Would you want to volunteer – once you know all the facts?

The second programme in the series explores whether we should send robots into space to do the dirty work instead of us.

The presenter Frank Close is a writer, broadcaster and Fellow and Professor of Physics at Exeter College, Oxford University.

G1ZmO
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Post by G1ZmO »

Thanks Guy

I've stuck it in my calendar to remind me :)

Cheers

Paul

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