Here’s to the Explorers

Elon Musk is getting a lot of media coverage when he repeated his statement that it will be very risky for the first people who go to Mars. This is an obvious statement of fact. I heard radio hosts at KGO 810 radio talking about this statement with great surprise. The hosts were disparaging of Elon Musks Mars plans. They did not believe the goal of getting the first humans to Mars by 2026 would be achieved.

The radio hosts were talking about how they believe we are nowhere near making space travel like an Airbus passenger plane. Elon Musk and SpaceX are working towards the goal of rocket travel that is as safe as a passenger jet. The goal is to reach this level around 2030. Getting there will be difficult and will require increasing the number of rocket flights by tens of thousands of times. Also, the goal of frequent and safe rocket travel has to be improved many thousands of times. The first human mission to Mars could happen by 2026 but it will involve a lot of risk.

Any space explorer going to Mars or moon will have all of the risks of going to orbit plus the extra risks of going to the Moon or Mars.

As of 2020, there have been 15 astronaut and 4 cosmonaut fatalities during spaceflight. About 30 astronauts and cosmonauts have died while training for or attempting dangerous space missions. Eleven died during training or on a launch pad test.

There will be substantial risks going to Mars in the early human missions. It should be safer than the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1922). However, help from Earth would be three years away.

Risks will be reduced by sending supplies and extra habitats before the human expedition.

Any space explorer going to Mars or moon will have all of the risks of going to Orbit plus the extra risks of going to the Moon or Mars.

Currently, there have been about 550 people who have gone to orbit. This means that the risk of deaths has been about one in 25. The risks were higher in the initial missions.

The new SpaceX Dragon has been tested so that the risk of loss of crew is about one in 150. This is about five times better than the Space Shuttle. However, it will not be clear if risks are truly at that level until more missions have been flown.

About half of the 49 Mars Missions (robotic) have ended in failure. There have been launch failures and failures attempting to land. Recently, the odds for robotic missions seems to be improving to about one in ten Missions failing.

There are many risks short term and long term health risks for explorers to Mars.

Antarctic Exploration Deaths

Deaths during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Twenty-two men died on Antarctic expeditions during the Heroic Age (1897–1922). Another five men died shortly after returning from the Antarctic.

Deaths Climbing Mount Everest

Climbing Everest (to the Summit) results in death one out of every ten times (as of 2006). This has improved slightly. The main reasons for people dying while climbing Mount Everest are injuries and exhaustion. However, there is also a large proportion of climbers who die from altitude-related illness, specifically from high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). Climbers attempting Everest have 8000 metres’ climbing experience. Climbers are not climbing beyond their ability but instead beyond their altitude ability. It is difficult to get the experience of what it is like climbing above Camp 3 (8300 metres) without climbing Everest. Climbers invariably do not know what their ability above 8300 metres is going to be like.

By 2019, 300 people have died trying to climb the world’s highest mountain, and some 4,500 have summited.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, NASA, SpaceX, Elon Musk
Written By Brian Wang,