It’s the little things in life.
As more and more research is poured into how we humans could seriously go to Mars in the not too distant future, all signs point to the biggest factor of success or failure will not be the machinery that controls air and water, the rocket engines, the flight trajectory calculations, or anything else that involves hard math or blue prints. No, humans are the wild card, and how to keep them running properly is the big challenge.
How to keep a human happy and sane? People with multiple degrees who have spent their lives studying this question will tell you it really comes down to the things that seem, at first glance, very mundane. What is the biggest factor that has made the International Space Station a success?
The fact that it has a window.
Windows were initially considered a frivolous waste of energy and materials by the engineers designing the first ships and stations going into space. And yet everyone who has been will report that staring out the main window – it’s called The Cupola – is the absolute, hands down, best part of going to the International Space Station.
Another huge factor is food. Astronauts all talk about missing “real” food like pizza and salads, and there are scientists pouring millions of dollars each year into how to make food that can be packed up and shipped off into space, be consumed in micro-gravity, taste somewhat good, and have an appearance somewhere close to something from back home.
It’s been a mixed bag of success.
The lack of gravity continues to be one of the biggest hurdles, but astronauts report the taste has gotten better. Also, once people took off the blinders of only considering 1950’s style, white, middle America food and took a look around at other food options, there has been a serious uptick in successes. Breads such as tortillas are able to be eaten in micro-gravity without the same crumb issues that the white loaf bread the old school astronauts were trying to sneak aboard the Mercury missions.
As I work on writing stories set on a not-too-future Mars, I am much more fascinated by these human issues than any of the tech challenges. The “domestic” side of the events, both in real history and future speculations, fascinates me. An army marches on its stomach, as the saying goes, and that will be no less true for future civilians, battling the challenges of living on a new planet.
I wrote about this in my short story ‘One Small Snack for Man’, about the first people on Mars filming a cooking show, to let viewers back on Earth know about the challenges of making Earth-like food on Mars. A simple ham sandwich is quite an effort – but, as the first human to walk on Mars will tell you – totally worth it!
This story was published in the anthology The Hamthology, which is a delightful collection of all things ham sandwich related. The editor, David Shultz, gets it that there is a lot of importance in the mundane.
The eBook is currently free on Amazon. Check it out!
It’s a highly entreating read, especially in what a range the theme covers; my full review of the anthology is here.