Former NASA surgeon talks viability of Mars colonization

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 11:34pm

James S. Logan, MD, MS, co-founder of Space Enterprise Institute gives a presentation on the future of space travel in the Bob and Betty Beyster Building on Wednesday.

James S. Logan, MD, MS, co-founder of Space Enterprise Institute gives a presentation on the future of space travel in the Bob and Betty Beyster Building on Wednesday. Buy this photo
Ryan McLoughlin/Daily

 

James S. Logan, co-founder of Space Enterprise Institute and former NASA employee, spoke to an auditorium packed with space enthusiasts Wednesday night.

Logan’s talk, titled “Living on Mars: Medical Realities of the Red Planet, Fact vs. Fantasy,” aimed to debunk some common myths floating around in the media and science communities regarding space exploration and human adaption to zero gravity environments. He spoke at length about the importance of attention to low-gravity and high-radiation effects on the human body and the need for a life-science perspective in space exploration, which is currently run by engineers.

Despite what he characterized as a pessimistic presentation, Logan said he called himself an optimist and a true believer in interplanetary exploration.

“We have to solve these problems; we will solve these problems,” Logan said. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are the generation that can do it.”

Logan served as Mission Control surgeon, Deputy Crew surgeon and Crew surgeon for 25 space shuttle missions in his 20-year career at NASA.

Though he dismissed the idea of immediate colonization of Mars and its moons, Logan offered his ideas of a different kind of extraterrestrial settlement. He said one way to combat the problems caused by radiation and zero gravity on Deimos, one of Mars' moons, is to drill into it and build colonies into the core.

Logan ended his presentation to thunderous applause and with a quote from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: “The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.”

Rackham student Benjamin Katz said though it surprised him, he enjoyed the presentation.

“I thought he was going to tell us life on Mars is going to be within reach,” Katz said. “It was the exact opposite, but it was really interesting hearing all of the science behind it.”

In particular, he said it was interesting to compare Logan’s work to various artists’ renditions of what colonization on the lunar surface and what the surface of Mars would look like.

“All of the pictures you see of people on other planets and stuff, not only are they not feasible now but they’re likely never going to be feasible," Katz said. "The way we have to visualize people living on other planets is going to have to be completely different."

Engineering senior Gideon Billings said he was surprised a manned mission to Mars was unrealistic with today’s technology.

“I expected it to be more like the issues that the astronauts would have to deal with in the context of a manned mission to Mars whereas we got that it’s really not practical to have a mission to Mars right now,” Billings said.

Billings added that he learned extraterrestrial colonization is going to be different from the image that media and pop culture portrays.

“You have this concept from sci-fi of how you see manned missions and how you see media pick up on that but then when you get down to reality it’s a lot different but it’s still possible and even in our future,” Billings said.

Billings and Katz both expressed their excitement that the University was able to get ahold of a speaker like Logan.

Logan also held a Q and A session with students following the presentation.