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Date: Prior to 1993

I am currently working on a "Man in Space" unit, especially as it pertains to NASA's planned voyage to Mars. How close are we to perfecting a recycling system for liquid waste? Solid waste? By recycling, I mean being able to reuse these by-products to minimize need for carrying additional water and storing unusable wastes. What plans does NASA hope to have for feeding a crew? Dehydrated? Grow your own in space? How about what advances have been made to simulate gravity in space and eliminate the physiological problems associated with space travel? Also the need to protect a crew from solar radiation in the event of a solar flare. Do we have any viable technology that makes a radiation shelter possible on board a spacecraft? I have heard that flight time to Mars is 6-months, then I read somewhere else that it will be only 4 weeks. Any idea what the truth is? Do we expect to have technology in place by the time we send men (or women) to Mars that will cut down the 6 month time frame? Just curious about all this.

Great questions! NASA and other space science teams are actively working on these very problems and preliminary plans have already been laid for sending people to Mars, though establishing a moon colony will probably come first. It is incredible how completely the recycling systems work...not a drop of water is wasted...all recycled. The engineering is phenomenal. Food-wise, the trend is away from dehydrated foods ... food scientists are trying to provide foods which are tasty as well as nutritious. In fact, Space Shuttle astronauts no longer eat dehydrated stuff...and are happy about that! Concerning travel time ... it will depend on the positions of the planets at the time of launch. Bear in mind, too, that the trajectory will never be a straight line from earth to mars, but along an orbital path around the sun. That will make the trip longer, though I am not sure exactly how much more. There was a superb PBS show which explored the advances in space science and how we are working on getting humans to other planets ... look out for it when it is rebroadcast!

RC Winther

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