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An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN

'Mars 2012' not a science fiction course


7 universities offer classes on life in space

June 4, 1998
Web posted at: 1:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT)

In this story:

From Correspondent Ann Kellan

BERKELEY, California (CNN) -- Not long ago, a college class about preparing humans to reach, live and work on Mars would have been science fiction. Now, it's real, as students at the University of California at Berkeley and other schools try to solve the same problems facing NASA.

Larry Kuznetz, a former NASA scientist, teaches a class at Berkeley called "Mars 2012," the year he optimistically estimates humans may reach the so-called Red Planet.  (102K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Larry Kuznetz
Larry Kuznetz  

Berkeley is one of seven universities in the U.S. offering courses about human exploration and development of space.

The classes are experimental but NASA might learn something, says Mike Duke of the Lunar and Planetary Institute which coordinates academic participation on space research. (1M/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Kuznetz's students share a passion for space, at least in theory. When some were asked if they'd actually volunteer to sacrifice years of their lives to prepare for and make the long, dangerous journey to Mars, all the men in the group eagerly raised their hands.

Mars 2012
icon 2 min. 30 sec. VXtreme video
Students talk about their work
663 K / 17 sec. / 160x120

video icon QuickTime movie

Two women students, however, had their doubts. Both joked about hearing a motion sickness lecturer who explained that space travelers are likely to throw up.

Sex in space?

The "Mars 2012" class is split into groups with each team taking on a particular Mars-related problem such as crew size, life support, habitat, exercise and clothing.

Because there is gravity on Mars, the 350-pound space suit that astronauts wear now won't do. Instead, students designed a 30-pound model.

Sachin Shah
Sachin Shah  

Another team developed an interactive Web site so classmates can chat about their projects via the Internet no matter where they are.

Sachin Shah, a "Mars 2012" student who helps maintain the site, hopes NASA will find some good ideas there. (119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Another issue for student discussion takes human nature into account, noting a voyage to Mars will put space travelers in constant contact for at least 2 1/2 years.

While the "Mars 2012" class favors a coed crew, student Todd Muehlenbeck says there shouldn't be any sexual contact. (119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Still, students are volunteering.


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