“Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus.” Many of you must have read that book by John Gray. However, a participant of NASA’s project that replicates life on Mars says that the first “manned” mission to Mars should consist of all women. NASA has conducted a series of studies under its HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) program to understand the physical, mental and psychological effects of Mars mission on astronauts.
Women expended less than half the calories than men
Kate Greene, a writer for Slate magazine, participated in the first HI-SEAS study last year. She, along with five other crew members, lived inside a dome on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Conditions inside the dome were similar to what astronauts will experience on Mars. Crew members who participated in the study had limited food, water, power and communications.
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During the simulation, she conducted a study on eating and sleeping habits of participants to estimate the daily and weekly caloric expenditure. She also blogged her own experience. Though all of them exercised the same amount (45 minutes a day, five days a week), three female participants expended less than 50% calories than their male counterparts. On average, a female member would burn less than 2,000 calories while a male participant would almost always exceed 3,000.
Sending women could bring down the cost of the Mars mission
The calorie requirement of astronauts will be a crucial factor when NASA plans its Mars mission. The mission should take more than two years: six months to reach the red planet, 500 days of stay on Mars, and another six months to return to the Earth. The more food a man needs on the journey, the more will be the weight of the launch vehicle.
By comparison, female crew members would require far less food to survive. What’s more, women have a smaller body mass, reducing the blast-off weight. It would also reduce the total cost of the mission. Astronomers estimate that the Mars mission would cost about $100 billion. However, NASA scientist Harry Jones downplayed the calorie, body mass and gender issues. Jones said the final selection of astronauts should focus on individual psychology, group dynamics and crew performance.