Important Question #54:
What are the Best Crew Compositions for Early Trips to Mars?

As humanity moves forth in both time and space, there are many very important questions that we will need to answer. The answers to many of these questions almost feel as if they’re being taken for granted in the present, but ideology is no substitute for reason when it comes to surviving and thriving from the coming challenges.

It should appear clear to most that the new space race is upon us. Finally, talk of moon bases and colonies on Mars appear truly to be within our reach. But overcoming technological hurdles is only one part of the challenge. Human nature itself poses a significant additional challenge.

I was always sure we’d venture back into space. But as the years rolled on, I became less certain that it would be within my lifetime. It turns out we were just waiting for the right visionary. But now that we have him in the form of Elon Musk, he’s ignited the excitement in many others from hyper-rich businessmen to recently rich countries. That, in turn, is reigniting the flame of the American space program.

Now, all of a sudden, it seems we may have not only colonies on other planets in my lifetime, but even space tourism and moon hotels. It’s truly an exciting time to be alive and I can’t wait to see what happens.

For a successful, thriving colony, eventually people of all types and backgrounds will need to reach the new land. But given the challenges of the journey, it may not be ideal to bring them all in missions with randomly-selected crews. We are, after all, speaking of a mission where survival will be a crucial element. That means ideology needs to take a back seat to reality. And the reality is that people of all types have inter-personal conflicts.

To be clear, I’m not so much speaking of people of different jobs and hobbies, which will also play an important role in both travelling to, and living on, a new colony. But independent of such chosen differences, there are a number of fundamental differences that are either intrinsic or deeply learned, which could play a strong role. Differences such as:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Personality Types
  • Religion

However, given the current socio-political situation, the most difficult challenges may lay ahead. After all, while the trip to near Earth orbit is short and the trip to the moon could be done in a couple of days, it’s an 8 month trip to Mars. Not easily accomplished when you have to live nose-to-nose with a dozen other people in a tin can for the entire time.

Personality conflicts and in-fighting in such an environment could be considered to be expected and may, under the worse circumstances, even turn deadly. The few experiments that have been attempted with humans living in resticted space with limited resources for long periods of time (Biosphere 2 as one example) have had less than encouraging results. The only groups that do succeed in any noticable way are submarine crew, and they know they have the possibility to return to the surface fairly easily. Still, studying these communities could be a useful starting place for general understanding of the interpersonal stresses that would be faced.


People of all variants will, and must, eventually find a place in our extraterrestrial colonies. However, an eight month trip in a metal can creates certain strains on the relationships between the individuals involved. Therefore, it’s important for us to understand which backgrounds and what personality types, as well as which organizational structures work most effectively together in the early stages of colonization. We need to learn which factors are important and which are not. In addition to being helpful in planning missions, if we are open-minded enough, we could find the results very informative.


Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on crew composition for medium-length (interplanetary) journeys? Do you think there are certain types of people / personalities that will get along better than others? Or is it all an unnecessary concern?

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