Life on Mars has been proven to be a reality. Even before then, we’ve dreamt of what it would be like to one day experience Mars. Recently, NASA posted dreamy illustrations of an imagined future on the planet. In one picture, an astronaut stands on dunes in her spacesuit and with a dog at her side.
Life on Mars has been proven to
be a reality. Even before then,
we’ve dreamt of what it would be
like to one day experience Mars.
Recently, NASA posted dreamy
illustrations of an imagined future
on the planet. In one picture, an
astronaut stands on dunes in her
spacesuit and with a dog at her
A History of Dogs in Space
While NASA isn’t planning on sending any
dogs to Mars until the 2030s, space
organizations have sent dogs to space
before. In the 1950s and 1960s, the USSR
sent dogs into capsules and launched them
into the sky. While the canines weren’t
sidekicks for the aeronauts, they were
subjects to test launch systems before
humans did. The United States used dogs to
research during similar tests with several
species of monkeys.
During these training sessions, engineers
dressed dogs in spacesuits and kept them in
small boxes for days, even putting them through
rocket-launch simulators, very sadly. One dog,
Bolik, managed to escape before his scheduled
ﬂight. Russian engineers faced a strict deadline
and then went outside to ﬁnd a stray and stramp
him in. They named the dog ZIB, a Russian
acronym which meant ”substitute for the
vanished Bolik”. Luckily, the dog completed the
mission and returned to Earth safely. However,
that was merely a sub-orbital ﬂight which stops
short of looping Earth.
The ﬁrst dog to really go to space was Laika, a three-year-old mutt, in 1957. Laika
remained in orbit for ﬁve months, circled the world and then plunged back into
Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, Laika didn’t survive because the engineers
didn’t plan for a safe return; the capsule was originally designed to run out of
oxygen within a week. According to sensors embedded in her skin, Laika’s
heartbeat tripled from its normal rate during takeoff and she breathed
frantically. She died not long after, probably due to extreme temperatures in
the overheated capsule.
Over the decades, many dogs circled
the Earth but returned alive. Then,
eventually so did humans. Then, dogs
were safe of being tested on for
further space experiments. A poster
from NASA suggests that, unlike
Soviet dogs, canines that were sent to
Mars wouldn’t be used like lab
animals, but sent with humans as
Life on Mars
But a life on Mars for a dog would be miserable. The journey would start with a scary rocket launch. Passengers often feel four
times the weight of Earth’s gravity pressing down on them. The experience is stressful even for many of the best-trained
astronauts. According to Clive Wynne, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, he mentions it would be way more
frightening for a dog who couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
In an article with the Atlantic, Wynne ponders how his own dog, Xephos, would react to a space mission. He says his dog
wouldn’t want to go to Mars and when conﬁned in a small space and subjected to loud noises and sudden movements, she
would convince us that this wasn’t something she wanted to do.
Additionally, advancements in technology to create palatial spaceships like the USS Enterprise is several years away. The ﬁrst
crafts to travel to Mars will be small and packed with only essentials like life-support systems. If astronauts have little room to
move around, they won’t have much room to play catch with their dogs.
The ride to Mars would also be difﬁcult on the bodies of astronauts, as well as dogs. Plus, spaceships can’t create artiﬁcial
gravity which keeps our feet on the ﬂoor.
Without gravity, ﬂuids in our bodies, including a dog’s,
ﬂoat to the head and congest them. Bones and muscles
thin out and eyeballs squish, blurring vision; scientists are
still trying to ﬁgure out this mystery. Without Earth’s
magnetic ﬁeld, passengers would be exposed to radiation
from space which increases the risk of cancer.
Humans can volunteer for this dangerous experience, but
their dogs shouldn’t be allowed. Wynne mentioned that
“it would be inhumane to take a dog on a spaceship.”
On Mars, the challenges that humans and their dogs face
would only continue. The air in the planet’s thin
atmosphere is unbreathable and the soil is toxic. The
gravity, about one-third that of Earth, would still be
havoc-wreaking most large life forms. Dogs would likely
live in a small habitat with their humans, exploring
outside in a spacesuit.
NASA has decades of experience in manufacturing
spacesuits so designing a suit for dogs wouldn’t be a
challenge. Humans would communicate with their dogs
via radios inside a fabric hat featuring a microphone at
the ear, so they could receive commands and
reassurances. A microphone at the mouth allows
humans to hear their bark. It all seems a bit unnecessary,
but unfortunately it would be the only way to survive on
A major problem would be the dog’s experience inside
these spacesuit, or “Snoopy Caps” which circulate the
same air repeatedly. Dogs have about 300 million
olfactory receptors in their noses. In contrast, humans
have about 6 million. They love to sniff just almost
everything; they can tell when their humans feel sick.
These enclosed world within spacesuit would be stiﬂing,
affecting their physical and mental health.
In all, a life on Mars would be inconvenient
and strange for a dog and we shouldn’t risk
making our beloved pets uncomfortable,
especially as we ﬁgure out how to go to