What would you take on a journey to Mars?

A disk the size of pin could hold a lot of memory. In that memory you could store massive amounts of information. That said what would you store on the head of a pin? I used to teach a class years ago where we would start the class with an exercise in planning.

What would you take to Mars?

Given a four-to-six year voyage what in the end would take with you? What assuming that Martians are friendly would you want available to share with them about earth? Once upon a time that information would have been much larger than the head of a pin. Now it could probably fit on a memory drive around that size.

What would you take though?

1. The first thing I would do is begin building a streaming library. As the spacecraft will be heading away from earth there will need to be a steady stream of media and the ability to capture and store that stream. Where I might be watching movies produced in 2020, movies from 2021 would be streaming to the cache. Caching streaming media is something we need to consider critical path before the mission takes off.

2. Devices like HomePods would also be critical. Small, battery operated and able to interact with the media streaming cache so that we can effectively watch anything or read anything at any time. Lag stitching software that allows one side to send a question, the other side to respond and then stitches them together into a single conversation without the lags and played via the HomePod.

There are many more things I would probably want to have available. Like I said this is a great conversation/class starter that ends up offering interesting views of the world. You would probably have a digital library of books, movies, music and images already on the craft beyond the streaming and stitching systems. You would probably want to have 25% more capacity for storage and a way to archive some IP easily.

Modifying the HomePods to deliver the overall solution wouldn’t be hard. Those are available soon and eventually adding HD and 3d camera systems for holographic displays won’t be a huge engineering obstacle.

Personally I would find it hard to go 4-6 years without a dog along. But I am also not the ideal candidate for the mission so I suspect that is moot. The ideal astronaut for this is able to function in a small group and at the same time has few ties back to earth. In the movie Interstellar the ties back to earth kept the Hero alive. But it also drove the antagonist mad due to the failure of being able to save humanity.

It is in the end a journey of discovery. You would need scientists and people with great curiosity. You would want an artist on the journey to recreate what is seen. You would want someone with an engineering background and of course a 3d printer so that person could fabricate tools and parts quickly for repairs. You would want a raconteur on the journey. Someone able to build and lead great conversations that last weeks and months. You would want an entertainer onboard. Someone with fresh new ideas and concepts to explore that were entertaining and humorous.

To use the resource triangle long used in the IT world it is about people, process and technology. Mixing all three into a soup that tastes good and is filling. That is what our crew will need as much as device or media services. It will at the end of the journey be a family of people exploring Mars.

So I guess in the end the thing I would take to Mars is a family.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.