Some years ago, NASA bred wheat in space with the goal of providing an unending food supply for astronauts. To help the plant along, astronauts shined light on the plant continuously. As far as the crop was concerned, the sun never set. It was always noon on a cloudless day. The extra light fueled its rapid growth.
Before owning a car became typical, roads and highways (the few that existed) were never crowded. It was only after everyone started purchasing and driving their own vehicles—to work, school, even the grocery store around the block—that streets grew congested, rush hour became an everyday occurrence, and car accidents became an inevitability.
Looks like we're going back to the moon. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new priority to put Americans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. If we do manage to return to our natural satellite—no budget or specific timeline was released during the announcement—then it will likely be for a longer period of time than the short Apollo missions, and will almost certainly involve longer moonwalks. That means more time for something to go wrong, and more of a need for plans and equipment ready in case of emergency.
It was 8:07 p.m. on a Friday night in Riverhead, Long Island, when the operators at an RCA Communications outpost picked up a signal that had never been heard before on Earth. A sharp, insistent beep sang out over short-wave radios, filling up our ears with the knowledge that humans had succeeded in sending something to the wispiest edge of our protective blanket of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.
If humans are ever really going to make it to Mars, we're going to need a bigger boat. Today's spaceships are built for short hauls to and from the International Space Station, a mere six or so hours away. These ships, like the Russian Soyuz, SpaceX's Dragon, NASA's upcoming Orion capsule, are small, cramped, and they don't have bathrooms or sleeping quarters.