"The Case for Age"
While on EVA today the idea for this report began to take form in my mind. Here I am in the 65+ age group and walking about Mars. But of what use is age here? Is there any advantage? In "The Case For Mars" book a good argument is made for a small crew size with two of the crew being engineers with training in other essential areas. Things will break and that is very bad once you leave earth. Maybe deadly or mission ending. An engineer is usually highly trained in one narrow area (like micro-chip design in my case) and without a diverse knowledge base beyond that. I have heard that NASA has had a difficult time in recent decades recruiting engineers with a diverse experience base. They are highly trained in one niche, but can’t replace a lamp cord or spark plugs for instance. These engineers had missed out on hands on experiences from a young age maybe because of such distractions as "Smart" phones and other electronic information devices. I was blessed not to have those distractions in my youth. Around age 5, I was disassembling small mechanical devices (alarm clock). By age 8, I was disassembling old radios and an occasional TV, even removing rivets so I could add a tube socket to my building inventory that I knew not how to practically use yet. By age 10, I was not very successfull in making my own rockets, propellent and hydrogen bombs (using H and O2 gasses I derived by electrolysis and put into a small container with electrical detonator). By age 12, building some simple electronics devices and repairing radios, By age 14, repairing TVs. By age 16, repairing vehicles and most any other thing that most people would trash, I would restore for more years of use. I could go on, but you surely get my point by now. I used my hands and brains in a wide variety of productive ways that the social and entertainment apps of today would have deprived me of.
I have used that knowledge on Crew 80 and Crew 228 to repair such items as EVA suit electrical, toilets, water pump, ATV, door, radio, sink drain strainer, water heater and things I have since forgotten. And all with full confidence. The extremely useful skill of improvising is also a desirable trait, especially with limited resources.
With all that said, I can now say that one engineer should be older than the rest of the crew for the greater depth and breadth of experience in many mechanical and electrical systems starting from a young age. Good luck finding such a person. Should the author of "The Case For Mars" read this, I can imagine seeing one or two thumbs up to "The Case For Age".
Crew 228 Executive Officer/Crew Engineer