Absolutely fascinating article by Michael Chorost for Slate magazine regarding the problems astronauts face if/when humans head to Mars for a long term -even a multi-generational- stay:
Clearly, there are considerable problems to overcome in simply leaving Earth’s atmosphere, much less deciding to inhabit a foreign object such as Mars, and this article goes reasonably deep into the crucial issue of the difficulties involved in feeding astronauts. There are other difficulties to overcome, for sure, such as establishing a reliable source of breathable ai and countering the effects of weightlessness (or lower gravity). Then there is the issue of your habitation and the elevated levels of radiation your target, in this case Mars, may have.
It would seem that whatever journey is taken to Mars at this stage -and for the near foreseeable future- would have to be something relatively brief, with the crew of a theoretical Earth spacecraft journeying to Mars, staying a short time (during which they use up their supplies) and then heading right back.
But a journey of 4-10 months one way is an awful long time and requires a great deal of nutrients/water and supplies. The crew of this theoretical flight would have few options if any sort of difficulty/emergency, medical or otherwise, should arise. They would effectively be on their own and would have to deal with whatever comes up on their own.
I’m convinced space travel will become, over time, a more routine and safe process, not unlike the journeys from the “old world” to the “new” one eventually became. Perhaps the solution is not to aim for Mars but to train for that eventual journey by going to -and establishing a colony on- the Moon. It is far closer to us and thus presents a potentially safer training ground, a place where we can carefully practice, refine, and hopefully perfect long term space journeys and the equipment necessary to make it so.
Still, fascinating, fascinating stuff.