Footprints on the Moon and cemeteries on Mars: interview with space archaeologist Alice Gorman

Who will be the first person to be buried on Mars? Nick Brookes / flickr, CC BY-NC

It’s 50 years since humans went to the Moon – and now people are so focused on getting to Mars.

But what happens when another planet becomes home, when the first generations are born, live, and just as importantly, die in space?

I often think the first death in space is going to be a big turning point for how we relate to it. There haven’t really been any so far. There was the unfortunate USSR Soyuz 11 mission to Earth orbit, where three cosmonauts died when they left the spacecraft – but they were recovered on Earth. [The crew died on their descent back to Earth after a technical fault caused their Soyuz capsule to depressurise.]

There have been other deaths, for example on the tragic Space Shuttle accidents, but they haven’t actually been in space.

It’s something people often overlook when talking about the prospect of settling on Mars. The risks are so great. People are going to die. They’re probably going to die if there’s any human settlement on the Moon as well.

So how will that impact how we look at space?

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