HUMAN colonisation of Mars could occur in under two decades and the man largely responsible for making it happen is inspired by the amount of people putting their hands up for the mission.
Jason Crusan has a pretty tough job, but it may not be as tough as those willing to lead the human settlement on the Red Planet and usher in a new age of galactic colonisation.
Mr Crusan is the former chief technologist for space operations for NASA, and in 2012 became the director of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the world’s leading space agency.
It sounds like a mouthful but according to NASA, simply put he develops the innovative approaches needed to maximise the agency’s access to new technologies and capabilities for human spaceflight.
It’s a role that would inspire little boys and girls all over the world to study space science, but he says there’s plenty of ways to contribute to humanity’s next big project.
“We’re going to need people to learn how to operate machinery and live off the land ... Mars has a very harsh environment so we’re gonna need people to maintain machines and operate those machines and be able to produce oxygen and the water we’ll need,” he told news.com.au. “A lot of those infrastructure activities are going to be critical to any kind of permanent settlement.”
After the first few missions of astronauts, it’s expected a lucky (and arguably somewhat deranged) group of people will head to the planet in a bid to establish the first liveable base for human settlement. Already seven Australians are among the candidates picked to take the historic one way trip to outer space.
“When people see those hard achievements on the horizon and they want to be the first person to do that, and the fact that there are tens of thousands of people around the world clamouring to do a mission like this is really inspiring,” he said. “It really shows how much of an inspiration living on Mars could be.”
The trip to Mars takes a year and the first missions towards that goal of deploying human cargo are set to take place in the 2020s and will involve a number of flights in and around the Moon.
He expects by the 2030s NASA will have well and truly begun building the systems to enable us to land on Mars and begin the learning process.
“If you stay much longer than a couple weeks, you actually have to stay for an entire year in order for the alignment between Earth and Mars to line back up so you can actually come back home in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.
When we do get there, the planet’s moons could play a crucial role in managing our presence.
“The moons of Mars are very interesting as well, they likely have a lot of water on them, they have material that we could use. They’re location and their size allow them to serve as radiation shields,” he said.
“You could dock up to a moon of Mars and actually shield yourself from a majority of the radiation environment of deep space and then explore ... and use that as kind of a staging point to then go to the surface.”
Mr Crusan will be in Australia for upcoming event featuring Buzz Aldrin who is vigorously pushing for the global community to better focus its efforts on achieving the mission of putting humans on Mars.
He has previously said the world is not doing enough and complained that governments have lost their appetite for space exploration since the Apollo missions. To some extent, Mr Crusan agrees.
“The simple answer is that we could always do more,” he said. “As more countries join and more countries contribute, the pace at which the mission could be done absolutely could be increased,” he said.
Compared to the Apollo missions, the expedition to Mars “is orders of magnitude harder and “the magnitude of the risk is a lot higher.”
However while it’s unquestionably an extremely tough endeavour “it’s one that’s worthy of all the countries’ contribution,” he said.
Tickets are on sale now for National Geographic’s MARS: The Live Experience in Melbourne (Nov 4), Sydney (Nov 6), and Canberra (Nov 7). Visit ticketek.com.au/mars