2016: Flying to Mars
Following confirmation of the unmanned flights' successful staging on the Martian surface, the program will begin a synchronized semiannual schedule with human crews. What will a Virgle Pioneer's life be like on the five-month voyage to Mars? Let's take a look.
- Entertainment - On-board supercomputers perform most ship and life maintenance tasks, up to and including games, movies and other forms of trivially simplistic human entertainment. Crew members will communicate with these machines via an auditory Holistic Artificial Language interface visually mediated by a glowing red light.
- Nutrition -The bio module carries organisms from algae and bacteria to higher plants like wheat, soybeans, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage, chard and carrot, all genetically altered for resistance to viruses and increased soil iron and aluminum content.
- Protection - Carbon reinforced polyethylene inner shells and the placement of water and other hydrogen-rich consumables on the outside protects both the human crew and bio cargo from potentially damaging radiation.
- Sleep - is huge on the Earth-to-Mars trip. Since the spacecraft is controlled by multiple supercomputers anyway, the crew spends much of its time chemically induced into a low metabolic meditative state -- the technical term for that being "zonked out" -- in the "bedroom," which doubles as a central solar-storm radiation shelter.
- Gravity - The spacecraft assembly spins in order to create artificial gravity. While not as strong as Earth gravity, Virgle 1 gravity preserves muscle strength, prevents bone mass loss, passes the time and allows for cool gerbil-wheel-reminiscent exercise routines.
- Friendships - While awake, coed crew members cooped up for months with precious little privacy and essentially zero opportunities for interaction of any kind other than with each other can be expected to form intense interpersonal bonds.