A r t P o l a n d
Ex-Project Scientist for the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
March 8, 1999
Planning for Mars
I woke up at around 7:30 a.m. this morning (Monday). I had a 9:15 a.m. doctor’s
appointment so my usual routine of leaving for work at 9:00 a.m. would have to be
different. Let me explain that a little: I live on a horse farm in Virginia, and the farm
is about 80 miles from work. It is a very nasty commute but I love my work and my farm,
so I live on the farm on weekends and have an apartment near work (Goddard Space Flight
Center) for during the week. I almost always get home one afternoon a week, usually
Tuesday, to ride the horses and see my wife. So, I get to work late on Monday, work late
Monday night (until 10 p.m.), leave early Tuesday afternoon to ride and play with the
animals, get back late Wednesday and work late each night except for Friday when I leave
work at 2 p.m. to beat the traffic.)
So, after breakfast I checked my e-mail over the Internet. This would give me a little
bit of a jumpstart before I got to work. The most interesting piece of e-mail was a
request from the advanced planning engineering group at GSFC. NASA is planning a manned
mission to Mars. They wanted to know what the solar group could contribute to the
mission. The point is that there are many things to consider in a manned trip to Mars.
The areas I felt were appropriate for me and our group to consider were:
- Space environment effects on spacecraft components: space is a tough place and it is
hard to make things so they don't break.
- "Space weather" effects during the trip-we need to warn the astronauts if there is a
potentially dangerous solar storm.
- Solar effects on Mars that would be different than on Earth: Mars' magnetic field is
not as strong as the Earth's, so it won't be as protective.
It will take me a few days to prepare that discussion, but it gave me something to
think about on my way to work. Pretty exciting: human beings are going to Mars and I'm
going to be part of planning the trip!