A Russian cosmonaut and a Russian space engineer say a manned mission to Mars is possible by 2025
Russian cosmonaut Yury Usachev logged more than 670 days in space but even he has his limits.
Speaking yesterday to several hundred students at Powhatan High School, Usachev shuddered at the thought of a possible manned mission to Mars and said he'd let the next generation of space pioneers sign up.
"I don't work for science fiction," he joked. "I am a realist. I will help them here for training."
Usachev, whose missions included service on the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station, spoke to science and math students along with Russian space engineer Alexander Martynov, who is working on international projects including a manned mission to Mars.
Martynov said he believes such a mission is possible by 2025 with help from the international community, including the United States.
"We need your help to build the station to fly to planet Mars," he told the students.
The two spoke earlier in the day at Goochland High after appearances this week at high schools in Northern Virginia. The tour was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and coordinated with Averett University in Danville, where the two are headed next.
Usachev showed the Powhatan students a video of his missions, which included scenes of him and other cosmonauts experimenting with weightlessness by performing flips and playing with food and water. One student asked whether Usachev had slept standing up in space.
"It doesn't matter in weightlessness," he said. "Up is down."
In response to another question, Usachev said orbiting in space provides about 15 opportunities each day to watch the sun rise or set.
"If you don't sleep you can see all 15 sunsets or sunrises, and it's spectacular," he said.
Mike Noble, a 10th-grader, left the presentation inspired and wondering whether his scuba-diving training might give him a head start on training for space flight.
"I wanted to try it after I saw the video," he said.
In my opinion, the real barrier won't be technological. Instead it will be social. Do we have the collective will to go to Mars?
Time will tell.