Humankind doesn’t seem to give up on the idea of colonizing Mars, for better or for worse. It’s not the question of “if” but “when” the first humans will venture into space to become the first settlers on another planet.
Succeeding in colonizing the Red Planet will require at least 110 settlers, according to Scientific Reports.
Do you dream of becoming one of the lucky few selected for the first expedition? Well, prepare for a cutthroat competition. After all, there’s no lack of people who want to make history.
Of course, it’ll still probably take decades to figure every detail out for the first Mars human mission. But if you want to secure this top job of the future, start working towards it now. Here’s how.
First Things First: What It Takes to Get Hired as an Astronaut
Don’t get this wrong: your previous work experience is essential for securing the Mars colonizer career. But it’s just one of 4 key requirements that your resume has to meet, based on the current astronaut selection criteria:
- Citizenship. If you apply to a state-run space agency, you have to be a citizen of this country. NASA accepts applications from U.S. nationals only, while ESA has its selection process open to its 24 member states’ citizens.
- Education. A Master’s degree in STEM fields is an absolute must, with the particular list of eligible fields specified on agencies’ websites. A Ph.D. or its equivalent will be a competitive advantage.
- Experience. At the moment, at least 2 years of professional experience are necessary. Besides the hard skills, the job demands a variety of soft (transferrable) ones, too. These include managing life-or-death situations, teamwork and collaboration as well as coping with isolation and confinement.
- Health. Every applicant will have to pass a physical test during the selection process. Besides, 20/20 vision is a must, too. Laser eyesight correction is also acceptable and won’t cause any problems in space.
5 Jobs that Will Prepare You for Mars Colonization
When it comes to a human settlement on another planet, the chosen individuals have to be irreplaceable. Their duties will revolve around the tasks that can’t be done remotely so you can’t just work from home. That means, they’ll have to get their hands dirty all the time. So, your previous jobs have to prepare you for that, too.
Now, it’s time for a deep dive into five occupations that will increase your chances to pass the job interview for a Mars colonization expedition.
Remember the protagonist of The Martian? He was, basically, a farmer on the Red Planet. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? For the colony to become sustainable, it has to be able to grow its own food to feed the population.
Now, there will be plenty of challenges when it comes to growing something on another planet, from low gravity to soil. This is why just farming isn’t going to be enough to qualify you for the job.
You’ll need to be a botanist, too. If you’re not a researcher in the field, how would you understand how to make agriculture work in such a hostile environment?
Should someone get sick or hurt, there’s no ambulance you can call. This is why, although all astronauts get basic first aid training, there has to be at least one doctor on the crew.
This person – called the ‘flight surgeon’ – should be ready to deal with any medical issues. This might mean operating on someone, too.
It’ll be a plus if this doctor specializes in the effects of low gravity and space radiation on the human body, too. These two challenges can lead to plenty of complications, after all.
At the moment, NASA accepts 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft instead of the two-year professional experience. That’s for a good reason: someone has to pilot the spaceship.
And when it comes to a Mars mission, there are plenty of challenges for this person.
First, there’s the landing on the Red Planet. It has to be smooth and precise. Otherwise, the mission will end before it begins. Then, of course, there’s the takeoff. And the trip itself will take between six and nine months, according to the most optimistic estimates.
Every crew selected by NASA had at least one person with extensive jet aircraft pilot training and experience. That’s because certain essential competencies can be acquired only in this career field. Changes in gravitational force and life-or-death situations are common in battlefield conditions, for example.
Any space mission involves a bunch of hardware and software that needs maintenance and repair. Solar panels, the spaceship itself, oxygen and water generators, you name it.
Creating a human settlement – temporary or permanent – on the Red Planet, in its turn, will require setting up one or several bases. These bases will need all of those components and more installed and maintained.
Besides that, it’s not unlikely that the first expedition to Mars will also do some mining. If that’s going to be the case, it’ll be on a small scale, of course. Still, it means that knowing how to use a drill and extract resources can come in handy, too.
Keep an eye on any openings for an astronaut position (once you meet the initial requirements, of course), even if it doesn’t involve going to Mars yet.
There’s no better way to get real, hands-on experience in what it means to be in outer space. It’ll be instrumental for you, the Mars mission, and the space agency – and the recruiter knows it, too. As far as competitive advantages go, this is the best one.
In Conclusion: 3 Challenges to Prepare for Before Going to Mars
Going to Mars may be your dream job, but no job is perfect. And this one is extremely risky and comes with substantial challenges that you need to brace yourself for. Here are three of them:
- Radiation. Space radiation is invisible, but it’s still there. Getting exposed to it means a higher probability of cancer. A mission to the Red Planet will involve an even greater deal of space radiation, according to data from the Mars Science Laboratory.
- Low and zero gravity. Humankind is only beginning to understand the effects of prolonged exposure to low (38% of Earth’s gravity on Mars) or zero gravity. These consequences include reduced bone density and muscle mass, loss of eyesight, and loss of blood volume.
- Hostile environment. There’s no oxygen on Mars. So, a tear in a spacesuit will mean death. Transforming carbon dioxide (96% of Mars’ atmosphere) into oxygen is essential to the long-term survival of the settlement. There’s also less sunlight and colder temperatures that may make things complicated.