Veteran astronaut Al Worden said technological challenges need to be overcome before any manned mission to Mars
The UAE’s space programme is “a very difficult thing” that will provide an opportunity to bring countries together for a common goal, according to Apollo 15 astronaut Alfred Worden.
Alfred 'Al' Worden, 85, was the command module pilot on the Apollo 15 Lunar Mission in 1971, and is one of only 24 people on earth who have flown to the Moon.
Speaking to Arabian Business at the Dubai Airshow, Worden said the UAE’s plan to send a probe to Mars in 2020 - as well as build the first city on Mars by 2117 - will be extremely challenging from a technological standpoint.
“Probably no one country can do it. I think this could be a wonderful focus for all kinds of different countries,” he said.
“It’s going to take the cooperation of a lot of countries, and it’s the perfect focal point for that.”
Among the technological challenges the UAE faces in any future manned mission to Mars, Worden said, are a combination of basic engineering challenges and the effects of long-term space travel.
“[There] must be a propulsion system that is sufficient to get us there and back, and we must figure out how to put enough food on board for a year and a half for the crew,” he said. “But there are also issues we aren’t sure about yet. We’re not sure how we’ll handle the radiation.”
The solar radiation that any would-be Mars travellers would be exposed to, Worden added, “is a dangerous thing.”
“They’ll have to figure out how to mitigate the radiation for that long of a trip. A year and a half is a long time to be subjected to high radiation levels,” he noted.
“On my flight on Apollo 15, we were only gone for two weeks and radiation was no problem ... I think that’s going to be a big issue.”
“But, there is no problem that is not solvable,” Worden added.
According to Worden, space exploration is ultimately key to the survival of human beings as a species.
“[The earth] is a pretty small object, and we could really do a lot of damage to it,” he said. “I see the space programme, the whole purpose of it, is to give us the capability to go somewhere else when we can’t live here anymore.”For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.