Current trends indicate that manned interplanetary travel will become a reality within the next 15 - to - 20 years, beginning with the exploration and eventual colonization of Mars. The implications of this type of exploration will have a profound effect on the philosophies we use to extend our presence into the solar system. We stand on the theshold of becoming a polyglobal civilization and must realize that this threshold is the demarcation between short term Earth-Moon sorties and the longer duration missions to other planets.
Man is a creature of gravity: it pervades his world as well as his very being so thoroughly as to be invisible. Invisible, that is, until it is removed. The potentially devastating effects of microgravity have been hinted at by the longer duration missions of the U.S. and more so by the U.S.S.R. Mir missions. Decreased blood plasma volume, loss of red blood cell mass and alterations of the red blood cell shape, loss of calcis bone density, sustained loss of bone calcium and muscle nitrogen, space sickness and alterations to the immune system, present us with serious questions that are just being addressed in depth.
The degradation of our bolidy functions in the absence of a gravitational field would seem to indicate the need for artificial gravity on planetary missions. This is issue currently being debated in the science community, though one must wonder if our logic is failing us. Is it ludicrous to think that creatures -- ruled by gravity for millions of years -- could function for extended periods of time without it? Should we allow limited budgets or unrealistic schedules to force an Apollo-type philosophical approach to interplanetary exploration?
As we begin our effort of extending our presence to other planets, let us develop a truly interplanetary ship capable of enhancements over the years. A vessel assembled in space, designed for missions lasting years, providing gravity, radiation sheilding and proven closed environmental systems to take us there and back time and again. This paper will explore the key philosophical, psychological and physiological issues that must be addressed for missions to Mars and beyond.