Right here on the same planet with people who are afraid to fly in a plane, we have a guy named Kerry Mark Joe ls who is ready to go to Mars.
He is so ready he has published a manual telling how to get there.
It is not addressed to the train-and-bus set.
"Dear Mars One crew member," it begins.
"You have been selected as one of the 11 crew members from all over the world for the first manned mission to Mars . . ."
Are we in a bit of a time warp here? We are looking at "The Mars One Crew Manual," an oversized paperback 160 pages long, full of drawings, maps and diagrams. It is not thrilling at all. It is a perfectly ordinary, prosaic, nuts-and-bolts instruction book.
If you stepped aboard a spaceship bound for Mars, it is what you would find in the glove compartment.
"Once check-out is complete, the ship's main engines will push you out of Earth orbit. This maneuver is called Trans-Mars Injection (TMI)," the manual announces casually. "With the exception of a short engine burn for midcourse correction (the adjustments of your trajectory), this is the last firing of the main engines until you achieve orbit at Mars. The Mars coast phase will last 350 days."
With this book and a few billion dollars, you could set off for Mars next Tuesday.
"We can do it all with today's technology," says Joe ls, a former NASA physicist who has discovered a new career in writing. Three years ago he wrote a similar manual for the space shuttle, and it proved such a hit that he was urged to try another.
"The question was, what? The moon was old hat, so we decided to do Mars. There's a lot of new interest in Mars, a lot of information being reactivated. I found 50 different studies on it, going back to some work by Wernher von Braun. Most of it is from NASA and space industries."
The launch is set for early 1996. Methodically, the book describes the 10 phases of the trip, including a bypass of Venus, a 30-day stay on Mars and the long glide home, taking another 260 days.
You want details? The fecal containment bags to be used by the landing party are diagrammed, with rather intimate instructions for their use. All sorts of gadgets, down to the washcloth squeezer and soap dispenser, are explained in cutaway drawings. The foods you will eat are listed, from applesauce to turkey tetrazzini, with photographs of samples. Exercise machines are shown, along with a chart for their most efficient use.
You want lists? The contents of the tool kits are given, even a roster of allen wrenches, repair patches and biocide wiping tissues. Hygiene and medical kits are also itemized, as are the crew wardrobes, including weights (socks, pair, .04 pound; brassiere, .17 pound, etc.).
You want schedules? The hour-by-hour routine of every crew member is listed for weekdays and Sundays. And checklists? Try the one for Mars Orbit Injection, which covers step by excruciating step the final 20 minutes before ignition.
You want diagrams? Here are detailed drawings of: the spacecraft itself, its laboratory and living quarters, the Mars excursion module, the communication station, the galley and shower room, the Venus probe, the robot airplane and surface probes and rovers that will supplement the landing party's work, the devices for surface experiments, the engines, environmental controls and voice-operated computers. And more.
"The MMC [Main Mission Computer] can be programmed in three languages," we are told. "HAL-S+ is a modified and enhanced version of the High-order Assembly Language -- Shuttle+ -- that has become a standard for Shuttle and space station operations. The INFER language, developed in the late 1980s, is an artificial intelligence tool for developing expert systems. DANYET is a popular language for logic and simulation. It was developed by a team of scientists from the US, Japan, and the USSR, and many of the simulation exercises are written in this language. All displays can use either the Latin alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, or Japanese characters."
The manual also contains not only elaborate astronomical charts of the flight itself but scale drawings and artist Paul Hudson's paintings of the Candor Chasma region, where the party will land, as well as geological maps of the area.
NASA, Joe ls says, has done numerous long-term studies of possible Mars missions and has worked out fuel problems, velocities and options. For instance, the ship could be kept spinning like a cement mixer to create artificial gravity inside, thus eliminating many inconveniences. On the other hand, it would cost more.
"There will be some differences from this plan, of course," he says. "You might need more lead shielding than I've put in, things like that. But the parameters will be the same. Technical readers say I'm being very conservative."
He doesn't like to talk about cost, which he feels has dominated our thinking about space far too much as it is. "Space is only about 1 percent of our budget, yet the amounts are intimidating to most people. I don't know if you can put a cost on it, any more than you do for any R&D project. You could call early America an R&D project of Europe, and who thought about the cost of that? Well, this is an R&D project for the whole globe. The returns are esoteric, it's nothing definite like, say, Teflon. But theoretically, one good asteroid could yield a billion dollars in metals. Mars could supply water to a moon colony cheaper than Earth could."
He speculated that he is talking about "less than a couple percent of the gross national product of several countries for a decade."
Joe ls, 38, has degrees in physics, aerospace education and history of science. He got his doctorate at Oklahoma State University through a NASA program and worked for NASA for five years in California. More recently he was a curator at the National Air and Space Museum for seven years. He is now director of curriculum for the national Young Astronauts program in high schools.
"My whole background is in space," he says. "I was a child actor at 12 -- my parents are actors in New York, Merrill and Marian Joe ls -- and I did the voice of a cartoon character in 'Space Explorers' in '59. That started me reading about space, and I read the local library dry. I did all the things a space kid does: built a telescope, ground my own mirror, was lab assistant in my astronomy courses. I learned it's one thing to know this stuff and another to communicate it."
Communication is the word. Even his hobby is writing pop songs, and he's had two published. ("If you'd heard of them I wouldn't be doing this.") Last time he looked, there were eight computers in his Alexandria home, where he and his wife run a computer consulting business. Even his 5-year-old daughter Meggan has a computer.
"She learns all this faster than we did. This is all so commonplace today. Do you realize it's been 17 years since the first moon walk? Teen-agers haven't known a time when we weren't putting people up in space. NASA says space is routine. Though I have to say, I've cried at launches. It's the greatest adventure we can achieve today.
"Why do you think I dated the Mars voyage 1996? If it was any later, I couldn't go."