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Mars: The Most Difficult Trip in the History of Mankind

By WallStreetDaily.com Mars: The Most Difficult Trip in the History of Mankind

“Isolated, confined, and in an extreme environment”: That’s how it’s going to be for astronauts who make the trip to the Red Planet. To find out how we’ll cope, we’re taking a trip to “White Mars.”

Mars is the most difficult challenge in the history of humankind.

And that’s just the engineering part. But there’s little doubt it can be done.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to test and perfect reusable rockets that can manage the very tricky and dangerous descent through the Martian atmosphere and will, at the same time, mitigate the cost issues associated with interplanetary travel.

Meanwhile, NASA, as part of its Journey to Mars project, is running a contest to develop ground prototypes and concepts for deep-space habitats. One of our favorite small-cap aerospace companies, Orbital ATK Inc. (OA), is competing.

The human question — can we physically and mentally survive the trip? — won’t have a real answer until we actually land on the Red Planet.

Every day, it seems, we learn more about Mars, which gives scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists better data on which to base their work.

And we’ve been treated to many documentary and dramatic representations of the next frontier of exploration, though none so thoroughly and accurately as in the last couple years.

The impact on the human body of long-term deep-space travel is addressed, if only very briefly, in the first episode of the National Geographic docudrama series Mars.

This “routine” aspect is not addressed at all in the Matt Damon interplanetary epic The Martian. We do see a man complete a simple operation to clean and close his own wound under crisis conditions and then solve the critical problem of fueling his body.

But we aren’t treated to the details of how getting from point A, Earth, to point B, Mars, will affect the physical and mental well-being of those who make the trip.

The human question — can we physically and mentally survive the trip? — won’t have a real answer until we actually land on the Red Planet.

And as Inverse recently noted, this journey will inflict immense stress and degradation on astronauts’ bodies.

According to research led by Dr. Alan Hargens, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, San Diego, spending time in space results in stiffening and straightening of the spine and loss of muscle in the neck, though there was no evidence of changes to spinal or cervical discs.

Dr. Hargens told Inverse, “The neck seems especially prone to weakening, so they become like a bobblehead.”

As for the mental aspect, NASA has an acronym for that: ICE, short for “isolated, confined, and in an extreme environment.”

“One of the best ways to study this on Earth,” NASA blogger Monica Edwards noted in a September 19, 2016, post, “is by observing others who also spend several months on actual ice in Antarctica.”

And so to “White Mars” NASA will go.

Antarctica is like the Red Planet because, as noted by Lisa Spence, project manager for NASA “flight analog missions” in the Human Research Program:

You can’t walk off the ice. That goes for whether you’re having a health, behavioral health or a personal issue, you’re not going anywhere. That is very similar to spaceflight. It changes your mindset about how you are going to respond when you know you can’t leave.

The study, “Characterization of Psychological Risk, Overlap with Physical Health, and Associated Performance in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme (ICE) Environments,” will be run by Dr. Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Houston.

Dr. Alfano will observe and report on subjects who spend long periods of time living and working on Earth’s southernmost continent.

NASA, through the Human Research Program, is funding two additional flight analogs designed to assess the impact of deep-space travel on behavioral health and performance.

David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine will research “Standardized Behavioral Measures for Detecting Behavioral Health Risks During Exploration Missions.”

“It changes your mindset about how you are going to respond when you know you can’t leave.”

George Brainard of Thomas Jefferson University will focus on “Testing Solid State Lighting Countermeasures to Improve Circadian Adaptation, Sleep, and Performance During High Fidelity Analog and Flight Studies for the ISS.”

There’s the adventure part of polar exploration, as SingularityHub’s Peter Rejcek recently noted, and then there’s the Groundhog Day aspect:

It’s the same routine day in, day out… And it’s a little crazy, as over time, absent external stimuli, your brain struggles to recall simple words, and you find yourself staring blankly after months of tedium — what we call in very nonscientific terms becoming toasty.

This, too, is all about ICE.

Dr. Alexander Kumar, a global health medical doctor and clinical researcher for Mahidol Oxford Research Unit in Thailand, explained to Rejcek, “Isolation impacts the human brain in many ways — in terms of physiology and psychology — and we are only now starting to understand these effects.”

At the same time, we do know some things: “Good exercise, good sleep and good team work are all crucial toward maintaining optimum health over long-term missions, expeditions, and difficult diplomatic placements.”

The work continues toward getting us to Mars within the next 20 years.

At the same time, many practical questions remain about President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on space exploration.

It’s clear he wants NASA to focus not on Earth-bound issues such as climate change, and he also supports the efforts of private endeavors such as SpaceX.

The Martian depicted a NASA mission, while Mars shows us a trip conceived and executed by a private, international consortium.

Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. will be involved if the U.S. public agency runs the show, and they’ll be involved if SpaceX and other private companies direct it.

And we have some pretty decent early answers to how our two favorite small-cap aerospace and defense stocks might fare in the new era.

For reference sake, the S&P 500 Index is up 2.6%, the Dow Jones industrial average 3.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite 3.3% since November 8, 2016.

It’s been a rip-roaring Trump rally for small-cap stocks and the Russell 2000 Index, which is up 10% from that fateful day forward. As we note in today’s episode of Upticks, Downticks, the Russell 2000 has now closed in the green for 11 consecutive trading sessions.

Orbital ATK is up more than 12% since it became clear that Trump would be our president-elect. Aerojet Rocketdyne, meanwhile, is up more than 24%.

Whether it’s the “aerospace,” the “defense,” or a combination of both, Mr. Market is pleased with the positioning of Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, especially in respect to a Trump presidency.

Upticks, Downticks

Uptick The Russell 2000 has now closed up for 11 straight days and hit a new all-time high last Friday. The last time small-cap stocks enjoyed a streak longer than this was June 2003.

Downtick The euro is entering crisis territory. According to a Citi foreign exchange strategist, “Only once in its 17-year lifetime has EURUSD gone down nine days in a row. This was when it went down 11 days in a row, bottoming on September 11, 2008. Four days before Lehman Bros. went under.”

Uptick Bond yields are on the rise. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note reached 2.34% on Friday, up from 1.79% on November 7.

Downtick The Department of Labor reported November 17 that seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance were 235,000 for the week ending November 12. That’s a 43-year low.

Uptick The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that housing starts jumped 25.5%, to a seasonally adjusted nine-year high of 1,323,000 in October, up from a revised September estimate of 1,054,000. The year-over-year increase was 23.3%.

Downtick According to Bloomberg, China’s “adjusted loan-to-deposit ratio, which includes a range of off-balance sheet items and is an indicator of the banking system’s ability to weather stress, climbed to 80% as of June 30.” Additional S&P Global Ratings data indicate that “the ratio has already topped 100%” for some smaller lenders.

Uptick The Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales grew by 0.8% during October, exceeding a consensus estimate of 0.6%. We bought more vehicles last month, and households also spent more on building materials.

Downtick Gold has declined to five-month lows, as the U.S. dollar index has posted 10 straight days of gains on anticipation of a December rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

UptickStudio Smack has updated Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights for the modern era. Take a look; be mesmerized.

Smart Investing,

David Dittman
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily

The post Mars: The Most Difficult Trip in the History of Mankind appeared first on Wall Street Daily.




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About Louie Lewis

Louie Lewis
Successful forex trading starts with you first. Then comes the actual strategies and techniques. I have been involved with forex and forex trading for a few years now. It is a wonderful way to build wealth. The learning never stops and I want to help others along their journey into this wonderful market of opportunity.

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