April 1, 2009

I suspect this is a bit silly...

Crew in Moscow to Simulate Part of a Flight to Mars - NYTimes.com:

...In a small step in the direction of Mars, the international crew is embarking on a simulated flight to the planet to test the limits of human tolerance for the isolation and monotony of interplanetary travel.

"It is really like a real space flight without the weightlessness and the danger to our lives," said Sergei N. Ryazansky, a cosmonaut-in-training who will lead the mission. "On the inside, we will have a lack of incoming information, so it’s the science of sensory deprivation."...

... On a mission to Mars, astronauts will have to contend with communication gaps of as long as 20 minutes.

"Working in such conditions requires that a person be able to check himself, evaluate his condition in relation to the crew and in relation to mission control and be able to correct himself," said Boris V. Marukov, the experiment’s director and a former crew member on the International Space Station. "He will be a psychotherapist for himself."...

I'm pretty sure there are no technical reasons why a Mars crew could not have high-bandwidth communications with Earth. Un-manned flights don't have them now because there is no need to add the extra weight and power-requirement.

So a Mars mission could communicate with all the Internet tools we have today, except for the delays. Those would be frustrating, but I don't think we are talking "sensory deprivation" here. And anyone who has children nowadays learns that Internet communications can provide a lot of our human needs for closeness and conversation. If my daughter is bored and discontented I'll suggest she invite some of her friends over. "Whatever happened to Susie?" I'll say. "You two used to be such good friends." And the answer is likely to be, "We still are; I see her on Facebook.." And they do--they even post little videos (probably mostly giggles and words-not-in-complete-sentences).

You could run a small business while flying to Mars. Or "meet" people of the opposite sex. Or be active in political debates. You could upload the latest movies and music. Read the NYT.

Even being physically present with people can be different these days. Charlene and I will sometimes sit on the sofa, each of us active on our laptops. Even sending each other e-mails, because that's a fast way to send a link to an interesting web page! Last year we were sitting together, and I read an interesting product review, clicked to Amazon.com, and ordered her birthday present with "One-Click." And she didn't even know.

I have Internet friends I've never met in person. Some of them are commenters on this very blog. And aren't blogging and commenting themselves just a sort of time-delay conversation?

Posted by John Weidner at April 1, 2009 6:25 AM
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