Did you know the surface of Mars isn’t actually red, but is, in fact, the colour of butterscotch close up, and that there’s a liquid water lake under the hot, dry planet’s surface?
Didn’t expect that, did you?
Well, in other unexpected news from the realms of space, NASA are looking for class clowns and ‘jokers’ to join their astronauts on their upcoming mission to Mars.
Typically, society sees astronauts as the strong, silent types, thanks to the Hollywood version of events in space travel informing our perceptions.
You picture Matt Damon’s Martian exploration – a feat of resilience and ingenuity – or Neil Armstrong’s serious sentimentality when it came to those first ground-breaking steps.
…And that seems fair considering the brave, clever men and women who go up in space are responsible for billions of dollars of research and equipment – and their fellow passengers’ lives, too.
But, with all that weight of responsibility, apparently a sense of humour is ‘mission critical’ to lighten the load in zero gravity, says Jeffrey Johnson, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, according to the MailOnline, who’s advising NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog.
According to new NASA research into how teams can cope with extreme periods of isolation, missions to Mars will need a ‘joker’ or ‘class clown’ figure to be successful.
So, they’ve declared a sense of humour will be a vital aspect for any team to keep morale high on a two-year trip to Mars which could happen in the 2030s – which is great news for the wannabe stand-ups among us.
The so-called joker role will be tested in NASA’s group mission simulations at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, Johnson announced, as he addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference.
During his speech on ‘Building a Winning Team for Missions to Mars’ he said:
Groups work best when they have somebody who takes on the role of class clown. These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale.
We can all think of the person at work who fulfills this role, who makes us laugh and makes the job more enjoyable. People like being around them.
When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray.
He concluded by saying someone ‘who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely’ is ‘mission critical’ but he gave the caveat that ‘being funny won’t be enough to land somebody the job’ and you’d still have to undergo training.
Well, that’s the end of my Mars mission, then.
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