June 8, 2016

There is a great deal of talk lately about a manned trip to Mars, the “red” planet.  Let’s take a very quick look at the task to get a feel for the complexity.

  • In theory, the closest distance from Earth to Mars would be when Mars is closest to the sun (perihelion) and Earth is farthest from the sun(aphelion). This would put the planets only 9 million miles(54.6 million kilometers). The two planets are farthest apart when they are both farthest from the sun, on opposite sides of the star. At this point, they can be 250 million miles (401 million km) apart. The average distance between the two planets is 140 million miles (225 million km). You would, obviously, launch when Earth and Mars are closest to each other or when they would be closest to each other.
  • Light travels at approximately 186,282 miles per second(299,792 km per second). Therefore, a light shining from the surface of Mars would take the following amount of time to reach Earth (or vice versa):
    • Closest approach: 182 seconds, or just over 3 minutes
    • Farthest approach: 1,342 seconds, or just over 22 minutes
    • On average: 751 seconds, or just over 12.5 minutes

If you could travel at the speed of light, it would be a quick trip indeed.

  • Here is a list of how long it took several historical missions to reach the red planet. Their launch dates are included for perspective.
    • Mariner 4, the first spacecraft to go to Mars (1964 flyby): 228 days
    • Mariner 6 (1969 flyby): 155 days
    • Mariner 7 (1969 flyby): 128 days
    • Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to orbit Mars (1971): 168 days
    • Viking 1, the first U.S. craft to land on Mars (1975): 304 days
    • Viking 2Orbiter/Lander (1975): 333 days
    • Mars Global Surveyor(1996): 308 days
    • Mars Pathfinder (1996): 212 days
    • Mars Odyssey(2001):  200 days
    • Mars Express Orbiter (2003): 201 days
    • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005): 210 days
    • Mars Science Laboratory(2011): 254 days
  • Like other space travels, zero gravity poses the biggest risk for human beings. Experts feel artificial gravity will be necessary for the crew whenever possible during the Mars mission.  The health hazards are both physical as well as psychological. Improper blood circulation, space sickness, weak immune system, back aches, muscle loss and radiation are some of the physical problems one will face. Psychological problems range from depression, interpersonal conflicts, anxiety, insomnia and even psychosis.
  • Dutch-based Mars One project is a ‘not for profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023′, aiming to add more crew to the human colony every two years subsequent. This year 40 people will be chosen for the project and four of these (two men and two women) is likely to be sent to send to Mars in September 2022, to land in April 2023. This means a journey of nearly 8 months to cover a distance of 56 mn kms. Now, this is the plan at this time. Only time will tell as to the actual delivery of those plans.
  • In spite of the risks of space travel, the Mars One founder said he is convinced of the viability of the project. However, some space travel experts have said the risks are far too high to carry out these manned missions to Mars, a distance that humans have never traveled.
    Radiation is a big concern. NASA does not allow their astronauts to expose themselves to radiation levels that could increase their risk of developing cancer by more than 3%.


OK, it’s a long way, but what if you could “slip the surely bonds of earth” and travel through a worm-hole that reduced you travel time to mere minutes if not seconds?  This might take an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.


A wormhole is a theoretical passage through space-time that could create shortcuts for long journeys across the universe. Wormholes are predicted by the theory of general relativity. But be wary: wormholes bring with them the dangers of sudden collapse, high radiation and dangerous contact with exotic matter.  In 1935, physicists Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen used the theory of general relativity to propose the existence of “bridges” through space-time. These paths, called Einstein-Rosen bridges or wormholes, connect two different points in space-time, theoretically creating a shortcut that could reduce travel time and distance.  The JPEG below will give you some idea, graphically, as to the concept.


Wormholes contain two mouths, with a throat connecting the two. The mouths would most likely be spheroidal. The throat might be a straight stretch, but it could also wind around, taking a longer path than a more conventional route might require.  Einstein’s theory of general relativity mathematically predicts the existence of wormholes, but none have been discovered to date. A negative mass wormhole might be spotted by the way its gravity affects light that passes by.  Certain solutions of general relativity allow for the existence of wormholes where the mouth of each is a black hole. However, a naturally occurring black hole, formed by the collapse of a dying star, does not by itself create a wormhole.

A HUGE problem with wormholes comes from stability. The predicted Einstein-Rosen wormholes would be useless for travel because they collapse quickly. But more recent research found that a wormhole containing “exotic” matter could stay open and unchanging for longer periods of time.  Exotic matter, which should not be confused with dark matter or antimatter, contains negative energy density and a large negative pressure. Such matter has only been seen in the behavior of certain vacuum states as part of quantum field theory.  If a wormhole contained sufficient exotic matter, whether naturally occurring or artificially added, it could theoretically be used as a method of sending information or travelers through space.

Wormholes may not only connect two separate regions within the universe, they could also connect two different universes. Similarly, some scientists have conjectured that if one mouth of a wormhole is moved in a specific manner, it could allow for time travel. However, British cosmologist Stephen Hawking has argued that such use is not possible.


To get to Mars or any other planet or star system, we will have to do it the old fashion way, get in, light up, and fire the darn thing.  We have the navigational technology to accomplish this task, but do we really need to get there?  My first choice, let’s establish a working base on our moon.  We know we can do that. We have the technology—do we have the willpower to plan that event?   The Executive and Legislative branches of our Federal government are just about a visionary as a cold rock.  They are much much too busy getting reelected to bother with planning.  I think this has been demonstrated by our complete abdication of the manned space craft program.  All advancements in past decades have been for naught unless we get back in manned space.  Asking the Russians for a ride every time we need a lift to ISS is ridiculous.

As always, I welcome your comments: bobjengr@comcast.net


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