The e’ffect of Technology on Space Exploration

In our latest episode of SAP’s The Best Run Podcast, I spoke with Dr Adriana Marais, a renowned physicist and one of the astronaut candidates for the Mars One Project, which is set to send 100 scientists to populate and study life of Mars.

Dr Marais said, as a child she regularly thought she was accidentally born in the wrong era since we’d landed on the moon and the ‘final frontier’ of space had already been reached. However, in time she came to realise that she’s fortunate to be part of a time and space that is breaking down new barriers in our solar system through technology.

“There is research that shows that, as a result of the Apollo era, students were influenced by the seemingly impossible act of humans walking on the moon,” she explained. “These students went on to register for PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with a per capita ration that hasn’t been matched since.”

According to Dr Marais, this new generation of thinkers and explorers helped develop all the key technology innovations we take for granted today. Although it may seem extreme to search for inspiration outside our expansive planet, the Mars One Project is the next step in creating a new wave of technological capability while demonstrating the fragility of our planet and the human condition.

The devastation of climate change and resource mismanagement has made survival on earth a greater challenge than ever before, and STEM disciplines play a big part in uncovering the key to preserving life on this planet.

Dr Marais noted that in preparation for the Mars One Project, she’s also part of another project for developing an initial simulation called Offworld. The purpose is to demonstrate community living in some of the harshest and most isolated environment on earth.

“Step one of Offworld is to step up a sustainable community in Antarctica, which includes wind turbines, waste-water management systems, agriculture systems, and communication systems,” she said. “From there, we’ll attempt to survive and hopefully thrive through the winter.

“The second phase of the project is a contaminated fight in the desert – so we’ll have the challenge of toxins in the water, contaminants in the sand, as well as the heat with little resources except solar power. Part three we’ll be living in a submarine underwater, which is probably the closest we can get to an off-world environment.”

Dr Marais said these three sessions should produce a body of research and supporting technologies that demonstrates human’s ability to create sustainable communities in seemingly uninhabitable environments. The research that comes from this work could help alleviate poverty as Dr Marais’ team learn how to provide self-contained living technology that could be delivered to remote communities suffering from food insecurity or refugee camps in harsh locations.

According to Dr Marais, the hope is that after all this research and technological developments, they are able to establish a community on our neighbouring planet of Mars. “If people can see just how challenging it is for extra-terrestrial life to get a foothold on any another planet, maybe it will sink in that there is only one earth and we need do whatever we can to protect its life-giving diversity.”

To explore the incredible knowledge and technology that will be send humans to the red planet, please join Dr Marais at e’ffect in Sydney on Thursday 8th August. It promises to be an engaging experience that will highlight the massive technological developments that are stretching the imaginations and abilities of people around the world.

Listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or visit The Best Run podcast hub