Author Topic: Trapped Chilean Miners as an Analog for Deep Space Missions  (Read 1385 times)

Offline Danderman

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Yeah, I know there's a thread about the news, but I want to talk about the implications:

Don´t want to sound cynic in any way - but if those 33 come out alive and well after 4 months they´re qualified for a Mars mission. At least from a psychological point of view.

Good luck to each one of them!

I can't recall another instance of someone who is effectively removed from civilization for such a long time; there have been long term isolation studies, but the victims subjects have always had the ability to return to civilization (the Biosphere experiments come to mind). Possibly, long term sailing expeditions may have featured involuntary isolation, but I suspect that in most cases, the captain had the capability of diverting to known terra firma in case of emergency.

One of the great unknowns for deep space exploration is the response of humans to being truly isolated for months on end, given that we really don't have a good data base for such isolation. As an added dose of reality, these miners are exposed to long term, low probability, high impact risks - ie that the whole mine might collapse; its not likely, but its possible. Deep space missions will likewise have lurking in the background the potential for catastrophe.

If these miners don't succumb to some sort of psychological issues, then we may have a good proof that humans can withstand long term isolation from Earth (and LEO).

Offline edkyle99

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Single-handed around the world sailors have been alone on the world's oceans for months at a time, but they can see the sun and stars and breath fresh air.  Their challenge is to stay sane while alone.  Today's sailors have satphones, but a few sailors did it with no such communication advantages back in the day.  Some of them seem to have preferred the isolation.

Submariners cruse underwater for many weeks at a time, typically 2-3 months nonstop, but there are stories of classified missions that stayed submerged for much longer periods.  But they have good food and power and filtered air.

Perhaps a shipwreck survivor might come close - someone who survived for months on limited resources without knowing if rescue would ever come.  Like this story perhaps:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1651807.stm

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 08/28/2010 04:26 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Warren Platts

People are isolated from civilization all the time in jails and prisons all over the world.

The Chilean miners are not a good analog for a Mars mission. This is an emergency situation, and it will be over before Christmas if not sooner, hopefully.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Danderman

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Single-handed around the world sailors have been alone on the world's oceans for months at a time, but they can see the sun and stars and breath fresh air. 

Such sailors can and do divert to inhabited areas, in the event of an emergency. The Chilean miners don't have that option.

Offline IsaacKuo

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I can't recall another instance of someone who is effectively removed from civilization for such a long time;
Try Shackleton's Endurance Expedition.  In particular, the 22 men who waited for 4 months for rescue on Elephant Island.  They had already been isolated from civilization for 16 months at the time Shackleton's party left to seek help, but only 7 months since the mission was considered failed with the loss of their ship.

So, they went 11 months from aborting the mission to the first sign of outside civilization; the last 4 months of which were spent waiting in one location.

Ironically, when they finally returned to the civilized world they found out that it was the civilized world which had gone mad.  Some who survived the Antarctic wouldn't survive Europe, which had been at war the whole time and would still be at war for even longer than they had been gone.
« Last Edit: 08/28/2010 04:56 PM by IsaacKuo »

Offline hop

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Such sailors can and do divert to inhabited areas, in the event of an emergency.
If they are lucky, and even so it can take considerable time. Then there's ocean rowers. Again, the modern ones have GPS, sat phones etc and probably aren't more than a few days from rescue in most cases, but the historic ones were truly on their own.

I think IsaacKuo is on the right track Shackleton, and it's not the only example from early polar exploration. The McClure Expedition is another example. The hardships faced by these crews were far more extreme that what a Mars mission would be expected to face.

Offline Sparky

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Keep in mind that these miners are not highly trained specialists who were hand-picked as the most qualified from an already elite group of professionals. While they've no doubt had some training and drilling in emergency procedures, they're more or less Average-Joes who got caught in a bad situation. This raises some interesting questions:

1) Are a bunch of laymen more or less likely to crack from long term isolation than a trained Astronaut. What would a psychological breakdown (or lack of one) among the miners mean for either answer to the first question?

2) 33 is a lot of people. At what point do a few people stranded together cross the line into becoming a microcosm civilization? 10 people? 100? I mean, once could argue that the entire population of Hawaii was a group of stranded settlers until 1778. If there is no easy way of getting a handful of people to Mars while keeping them sane, how large of a group do we need to send?

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