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Life Support Systems for Manned Mars Missions, Overview

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Handbook of Life Support Systems for Spacecraft and Extraterrestrial Habitats


A manned journey to Mars has long since been the subject of science fiction and fantasy, but continued advances in technology have opened up the possibility. The lengthy distance to the planet, together with its hostile environment present dangers to the health and well-being of space-travelers and huge logistical difficulties in terms of adequate resource provision to sustain a crew for a return journey and time on the planet surface. Advanced life support systems have continued to adapt and develop since the flight of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961 and the NASA led Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, which required open-loop, disposable systems of short duration only. Arrival of the Space Shuttle program and International Space Station led to a shift in specifications, with emphasis on reusability and long-term use. This ongoing process has resulted in a complex life support system capable of sustaining a six-astronaut crew for several months. Key technologies, such as oxygen generation and water recovery systems, have reduced the need for the costly resupply of some materials to the orbiting space station, but replenishment of consumables, propellant, and maintenance equipment continues. Frequent resupply is an unfeasible option for a long-duration deep-space mission, meaning a bioregenerative life support system will be essential. Research continues in this field, with one example being the European Space Agency managed MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) project. Further advances in a system providing the essentials for human survival in a Mars environment, together with technology for the use of the natural in-situ resources of the planet, will undoubtedly open up exploration of this new frontier in the coming decades.

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Correspondence to Thais Russomano .

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Russomano, T. (2017). Life Support Systems for Manned Mars Missions, Overview. In: Seedhouse, E. (eds) Handbook of Life Support Systems for Spacecraft and Extraterrestrial Habitats. Springer, Cham.

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Chapter history

  1. Latest

    Life Support Systems for Manned Mars Missions, Overview
    14 February 2017


  2. Original

    Life Support Systems for Manned Mars Missions, Overview
    26 December 2016