Author Mary Roach discussed what she learned about the difficulties of living in space and traveling to far off worlds while researching her new book, Packing for Mars. According to Roach, astronauts journeying to the Red Planet will confront serious mental health threats caused by prolonged isolation and from losing sight of their home world, a situation known as "Earth-out-of-view" phenomenon. Various space agencies have set up simulated ground-based experiments, such as the Mars500 project in Russia, to learn how astronauts would cope with such long-duration space journeys, she added.
Previous studies have shown that humans feel the pressure of being trapped after just six weeks into a mission, Roach continued. This can lead to frustration, anger, and ultimately, depression. One cosmonaut commenting on his lengthy stay in space told her, "I wanted to hang myself, but in zero gravity you can't." A round-trip mission to Mars would take even longer -- more than 500 days -- and involve confining a crew of men and women together in close quarters the entire time. Roach noted some potential physiological challenges related to mixed gender crews, including in-flight sex and reproduction.
In addition, astronauts must deal with issues involving food, water, and waste, while being bombarded by dangerous radiation particles during the trip. To protect them from radiation, some have proposed lining the spacecraft with food and water on the way to Mars, then using waste to do the same thing on the way back, Roach explained. She also spoke about her experiences at a NASA research station at Devon Island in Canada, training inside a reduced gravity aircraft known as the 'Vomit Comet', and what it was like to drink her own recycled urine.
D.B. Cooper Update
In the first half-hour, attorney Galen Cook provided a brief update on his D.B. Cooper investigation. Cook said he has recently started working with the FBI on the case. They have informed him that all previous D.B. Cooper suspects have been eliminated, and they can now begin looking into his suspect, Bill Gossett. Cook also explained that he has found someone who may have seen the infamous hijacker parachute from the plane on Nov. 24, 1971. Read more about this new witness at the Standard-Examiner.