I’m A Martian
I’m a Martian. This might surprise you, as I’m neither green, nor insectoid and have never dug a canal in my life, but I’m a Martian nevertheless – or at least NASA says so.
How To Become a Martian Register your e-mail address on NASA's Mars Outreach website to be notified of new missions to Mars (see link at the end of the post). If you then decide to send your name to Mars, you become an honorary Martian, get your own boarding pass and start earning frequent flyer points. You'll be landing on Mars - at least in spirit. 🙂
Truth be told, I haven’t done much about being a Martian in the past three years, apart from watching The Martian (of course!), browsing NASA’s photo gallery and visiting the Planetarium in Greenwich on occasion. Instead of science, that’s mostly just science-fiction.
But today I added a new dimension to my existence as a Martian: I laid in a couch in the prototype of a Martian home. (It was quite difficult to get out of it afterwards but gravity is much lower on Mars, so that should be all right. On Mars, I mean.)
Today, I toyed with the idea of moving to Mars in the Design Museum in London.
Moving to Mars
Mars is there, waiting to be reached.
A few years ago, NASA actually designed a space craft for just such a mission – straight out of Arthur C. Clarke, with a rotating ring to create artificial gravity – although Nautilus-X has never got off the drawing board and perhaps never will.
But the idea of a manned space flight to Mars in the foreseeable future fired the imagination of not just scientists and engineers but architects and interior designers too. Moving to Mars, the exhibition currently running in the Design Museum, brings together ideas that try to make life on Mars a reality.
There’s a reason why this exhibition is in the Design Museum and not the Science Museum: because it’s about design (which of course is influenced by science).
It’s an exploration of the practicalities of living on Mars – a not yet terraformed Mars. A pioneer existence, much like that of Mark Watney’s in The Martian. Growing your own food, making clothes of packaging materials… Remember: the Martians will have to take everything from Earth, unless they can produce it on Mars. That includes not just food, clothing and equipment but water and air. (Never mind home comforts. Young Friend of the Elephants – very keen to start living on Mars – is still trying to come to terms with the fact that if she was a Martian pioneer the toy elephant she grew up with would have to be left behind.)
The exhibition brings together as diverse items as:
- a Babylonian clay tablet with astronomical observations and a book by Johannes Kepler,
- film posters and the latest photos taken by NASA on the ground (by the rover Curiosity),
- space suits and models of the rovers.
You learn a lot about the red planet on which you’re considering making your home. Did you know that the dust on Mars is as fine as icing sugar and dust storms can envelope almost the entire planet and last months? Or that the atmosphere mostly consists of carbon-dioxide? Did you know that for all that the surface looks like a hot desert, the average temperature is in fact around -60? And so on.
The best bit, however, the bit that will surely fire your imagination, is the room that shows a potential prototype home on Mars. And not just little models of the various designs that could house such a home to protect it from the environment. You walk into the first Martian home, lie on the couch, look out of the window. You consider the food and how you’re growing it; the clothes and where you get them from. What about a Mars boot grown from human sweat and fungus? Or fashion a la Mars – clothes made out of discarded packaging materials? And by the way, how long does it take to drain a bathtub at a much lower gravity? Actually – given the scarcity of water – will there be a bathtub?
As this fascinating show makes clear, colonising the Red Planet will require technical genius – plus an eye for fashion and coffee you can drink upside-down.
Ready to Fly?
On your way out you come across the question posed by the exhibition organisers: Are you ready to travel to Mars…?
Am I ready?!
With a packed rucksack, clutching my boarding pass, and eyes firmly set on the future which I will not live to see… yes.
Links: ⇒ NASA Mars Outreach (Send Your Name to Mars) ⇒ NASA Photo Gallery ⇒ Peter Harrison Planetarium (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich) ⇒ Nautilus-X Project, NASA ⇒ Moving to Mars (Design Museum, London) ⇒ War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (Gutenberg Project) You might also like: ⇒ The Future in the Past (2001: A Space Odyssey)