Saturday, August 4, 2012

One-way trip to Mars planned for 2023

Artist’s impression of the living units that await Mars One colonists.
The inhabitants of these pods will never see Earth again except as a planet in the night sky. (Photo: Mars One)
An announcement I missed in June. A Dutch company called Mars One plans to settle humans on Mars in 2023.  This will be a one-way trip.  No return tickets available.  The participants emigrate, living and working on Mars for the rest of their lives. This is what makes this plan feasible, says the Mars One website. “It goes without saying that we are taking care of the living needs of the settlers.”

Is this a serious operation? It has serious names associated with it. In this promotional video they’ve persuaded the Nobel prize-winning physicist Prof Gerard 't Hooft to endorse the project.

On the Mars One website he says: "The aspect that made all the previous plans so unbelievably expensive and complex, was the uncompromising condition that all Mars travellers must return back to Earth. A return journey would demand launching techniques and manoeuvres that have not been properly investigated, and would double, triple, quadruple the price.”

Eighteen months ago I was surprised to find Paul Davies proposing this one-way trip to Mars thing, and I put together a few thoughts on the ethics of the idea. Would those who sent these colonists be colluding in their suicide?  Read my thoughts here: Can we? Perhaps. Should we? Perhaps not

Mars One mission leader Bas Lansdorp says that by using only previously tested technologies they will avoid expensive research and testing, and keep costs down to about $6 billion for the first settlement of four astronauts.

Mars colonisation meets Big Brother

Now for how they plan to pay for this.  Should we feel queasy when we read on the company's website that media coverage is "a vital component of Mars One's plan"?  With the help of Big Brother creator Paul Römer they will turn the astronaut selection, training, and mission completion into a media spectacle.  "The concept of a 'one-way' mission is both outrageous and exciting," he's quoted as saying. "These aspects are what brought me to the idea of making the mission the biggest media event in the world. Reality meets talent show with no ending and the whole world watching. Now there's a pitch!"

Starting in 2016, supply vessels, solar panels and living infrastructure will be delivered, and in 2018 a rover will comb the landscape for prime locations to place the colony.

Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and author of The Case For Mars told The Huffington Post: "This is something that has amazing historic value - the transformation of humanity from a single planet species to a multiplanet species  … You only live once. To have the chance to do something like this is profound."


  1. Amazing Pete, that sounds like the plot of a sci-fi/horror film! What would day to day life be like on Mars, am I right in assuming the air's not breatheable so life would be lived out in a space-suit? Can't help feeling it won't happen, but it would be mind-blowing if it did for so many reasons, not least the moral dilemmas you raise.

  2. Yes atmosphere hardly exists, the pods could be pressurised but there would have to be airlocks to go outside, and then it's spacesuit time. In due course they would build huge domes but what happens when a meteorite strikes? I said to an astronomer friend of mine that I thought this was all wrong and he said that were he younger he would sign up without hesitation. There will no shortage of volunteers.