(James A. Lewis is from the Village of Maine and is a member of “Stars Are US” Astronomy Club)


There has been a lot of discussion recently on TV about sending astronauts to Mars in the future. This seems exciting, but I am very much opposed to the idea. Why? The dangers pose huge risks to the astronauts. The cost of this trip is more than excessive.


Regarding the dangers, the voyage to Mars and return will take about 22 months. The trip one-way takes nine months. The time spent on Mars will be about 4 months. Mars and the Earth must be orbiting in exact relation to each other for this Mars landing. This is very tricky.


In the meantime, dangerous energetic particles (gamma rays, X rays and other dangerous particles from the sun and elsewhere in space) will be penetrating the astronauts’ bodies, causing extreme damage and possibly death.


On earth, the sun’s energetic particles are shielded by the ozone layer, oxygen and the magnetic energies surrounding the earth. Occasionally the sun has huge ejections of particles called flares which pose every greater damage. The astronauts would require 3 or 4 inches of lead for shield. This seems impossible to add to their spacecraft and the housing on Mars.


Extended time away from earth would lead to medical emergencies—probably appendicitis, cancers, or injuries of many types. It seems likely that death could occur to some of the astronauts.


The expense of such a mission would be enormous, almost beyond our measure. I think that continued robotic exploration of Mars is the wiser choice. The savings could be applied to taking care of our earth, expanding sun and wind power, medical care for all, education and rebuilding infrastructure.