SFC William Ruth III.  Image Courtesy William Ruth and Javier Yanes

Mars, Space Exploration

One-Way Mission to Mars: US Soldiers Will Go

26 May , 2008 by

Sergeant First Class William H. Ruth III contemplates his current duty in a barren landscape in Afghanistan, and says he’s willing to lead a human mission to Mars.

An article published on Universe Today back in March of this year detailing former NASA engineer Jim McLane’s idea for on a one-way, one-person mission to Mars generated a lot of interest. The many comments on the subject posted here on UT and numerous other websites such as ABC News ranged from full support to complete disbelief of the idea. McLane’s concept has literally gone around the world, and a journalist from Spain, Javier Yanes who writes for the newspaper Publico shared with me his correspondence with a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan, who says that battle-hardened soldiers would be the perfect choice to send on a mission of no return to a new world. SFC William H. Ruth III says he and the men in the 101st Airborne Division are ready and willing to go.

SFC Ruth wrote, “While reading Jim McLane and Nancy Atkinson’s thoughts on Space Colonization, I started to realize that we ‘ALL’ have lost our way. We have become so consumed by petty differences and dislikes of others that we all have forgotten our pre destiny of something better.”

And what is the ‘something better’ that Ruth envisions? Military personnel from different countries joining together to make “the ultimate sacrifice” of forging the way to establish an outpost on another world, like Mars.

“Here is an ‘out of the box idea’,” Ruth writes. “Let the heroes of ‘All’ our countries, for once, risk the ultimate sacrifice for something greater than one man’s idea. Maybe once let these men and woman that rise every morning and say ‘today I will stand for something’ and say ‘evil will not prevail, not on my watch’. For once let them volunteer for us all, you never know, mankind, the human race. It might just catch on if we let it.”

Ruth continues, “Will we falter at a hint of death or danger? Or will we do now what so many in ‘ALL’ of the world’s history has done before us. NASA of all thinking societies should understand this. Would there even be an America or NASA if a man named Columbus had not pursued a dangerous and possibly deadly voyage to a new world? He certainly had to consider whether or not he would ever return home to see all those he loved so dearly. But what of those aboard his ships, those that left Spain knowing that they would never return. Those few that willingly risked all for the chance at a new world and a new future, could they have possibly known what effects they would have had on the future due to their sacrifices? Now can we have enough vision to see our destiny, can we, for a moment, see past our petty differences of race and religion to see…peace, prosperity and possibly a new world.”

3rd Platoon at Fire Base Ter-Wa, April 2008. SFC Ruth is first on the left.

Ruth says 15 years in the military has prepared him for such a mission. “So I am no fool and I am no stranger to what some might call high risks,” he says. “Hundreds of thousands of fighting men and woman from around this world have walked, rode, swam and even jumped into what some would call a high risk situation. Some even considered suicide missions, ones with low probability of success. And why, what did they risk all for? Each and every one of us, even those throughout this earth that has made that choice, risk all for what we believed would make our world better.”

Ruth first began pondering such a mission after reading a quote by Stephen Hawking on Space.com: “The discovery of the New World made a profound difference on the old,” Hawking said. “Spreading out into space will have an even greater effect. It will completely change the future of the human race, and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.”

Ruth sent an email to Space.com’s Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, which was posted on the LiveScience blog: “Here is an idea: Send battle-hardened, strong-minded soldiers and marines on the long trips into space. We are conditioned to live with the bare minimal (of) life’s necessities and are trained to be prepared for … the worst conditions that any environment could throw at us. Hell, me and my men will go, set up a colony somewhere and await colonists to arrive.”

Javier Yanes read Ruth’s proposition and contacted him, sending him the link to the Universe Today article with McLane’s idea.

Ruth responded by sending Yanes a written statement called “A Soldier’s Perspective;,” Yanes wrote an article about Ruth in Publico, and shared Ruth’s proposal and pictures with me.

Ruth doesn’t agree with McLane’s idea of a one-person mission to Mars, but supports the one-way idea.

“I fully agree with NASA and others that it is completely dangerous and potentially deadly for anyone who sets out on this voyage,” he wrote. “But since when has that ever stopped anyone? A one way trip is the way to go about this, it is a proven fact of human history that when the human species is thrown into a no alternative situation, that they will prevail and survive.

The military would never send someone out alone, and Ruth thinks a multiple ship mission is the way to proceed, with three to four smaller vessels, with four to six crew members each.

Ruth admits that other might see sending soldiers into space as more like an invasion or occupation than exploration. “To those who share this concern, consider this for a moment and ask yourself, who else?” Ruth asked. “Who else has the mentality to volunteer to face certain danger and possibly death, thousands of miles away from their homes? I could think of a few hundred thousand that do it everyday across this planet.”

Ruth says that getting the worlds militaries involved with something other than making war with each other could change humanity’s future for the better.

“I wonder who will be the first to extend the hand of complete partnership, representing the whole human species?” Ruth asks. “Could this be the answer that so many have searched for? Could this one thing unite humanity in a new era of global cooperation and a new planetary respect for human life, unlike we know it today? My answers… ask me again when I’ve reached the new world!”

By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ian O'Neill
Member
May 26, 2008 4:00 PM

I was going to volunteer for this mission, but then I read this article. I think I’ll leave it to Ruth, he’s far more qualified… and way braver smile

Great interview again Nancy!

Ian

Martin-Gilles Lavoie
Guest
May 26, 2008 10:12 AM

Meh. I’m no soldier and I’d be willing to go too. I just need a lawn chair for the last moments of air.

Skunkwaffle
Guest
Skunkwaffle
May 26, 2008 10:33 AM

This guy really has it all figured out doesn’t he. This is absolutely exactly what needs to happen.

Isaac
Guest
Isaac
May 26, 2008 11:01 AM

Truly admirable

Nat
Guest
Nat
May 26, 2008 11:23 AM

I agree with quite a bit that this guy has to say. Hopefully our first mission to Mars can be an internationally collaborative one rather than a showy display of technological strength.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 11:40 AM

If a one way manned mission to is ever attempted, it will not be the USA who does it. I just don’t see the American public going along with it.

It will most likely be the Chinese or possibly the Russians. They would have far more invested in the propaganda of such a mission, and their citizens are much less likely to mount a successful campaign in opposition.

Taft
Guest
Taft
May 26, 2008 11:41 AM

Ya, what we need to do is spend exponentially more money to get humans to Mars. Them being there will reaaaally make a difference.

Too bad robots can’t search, analyze and build….

People need to learn that the exploration of space is not a human job. Until they do, we’re going to waste a lot of time and money.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 11:43 AM

Fancy missing the word “Mars” out of my comment smile

Javier
Guest
Javier
May 26, 2008 11:47 AM

The link to the newspaper Publico in ” Javier Yanes who writes for the newspaper Publico” is wrong. It should address to http://www.publico.es/ . Now it addresses to a Portuguese newspaper.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 11:48 AM

Taft, a human being can do more in a day than robots can do in a year on Mars — and will be able to do so for some time to come. For all the wonderful work that the Mars rovers have done, a single person on the spot could probably have done as much within a week or less.

Sure, it’s ridiculously expensive, but some day space travel will be routine (not any time soon) and we will always be pressing on towards that day.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 11:53 AM

Case in point: it’s going to take a week for Phoenix even to begin to start digging into the Martian soil — they have a ton of remote sensing, calibration, and measurements to make before they can even move the arm. On a manned mission, they may take a day or so to do post-landing checks, but then all they would need to do is hope out of the spaceship with a drill and start drilling. The Phoenix mission will take 90 days to characterize a few centimeters of martian soil. A human crew could probably do the same thing in a couple of days at most.

Nancy Atkinson
Guest
May 26, 2008 12:11 PM

The link to Publico has been fixed. Thanks for noting the mistake!

ed
Guest
ed
May 26, 2008 1:07 PM

they are soldiers. They risk their lives but they dont think their missions, someone has to do it for them. Here you see why, they are so brave they will do everything for honor and that’s admirable. But they should send better robots able to build structures rather than sending humans and spend lifes for no benefit at all.

Jacco
Guest
Jacco
May 26, 2008 1:53 PM

I am the only one who thinks that this is totally disgusting?? I have been a spaceflight and astronomy enthousiast ever since I saw Neil walk on the moon. I am thrilled by the recent pictures send back by the Phoenix lander, I can’t wait to see people get back to the moon, I love space, I love spaceflight, it represents our future, our hope, our love of life – and I think it is worth the money and effort. But sending people on a suicide mission is where I draw the line. If that is going to happen, I will feel totally gutted, I can’t bare to watch that. That’s so sick.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 2:01 PM

Jacco’s reaction is why I think NASA will never be able to do this. (Not saying you’re right or wrong, Jacco.)

The nearest they will get to doing this will be a very high risk mission. Indeed the first mission to Mars will be very high risk anyway, but they will have to provide at least a chance that the crew will be able to return home.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 2:04 PM

What about a one-way mission that provides the crew with all the resources to live indefinitely on the surface of Mars with the possibility of returning home after a few years, once the return leg of the mission has been thoroughly tried and tested?

Would that be enough to satisfy the naysayers?

Sci-Fi Si
Guest
May 26, 2008 2:42 PM

I’m up for it. Give me a bio-sphere and a possibly better than 5% chance of surviving. The benefit to the people on Earth would be worth the risk.

They would need scientists and communications people on a mission like this, not just soldiers.

tacitus
Member
May 26, 2008 2:54 PM

A one-way mission designed to last indefinitely (barring accidents, of course) would provide a great impetus for the continued development of the manned space program since there would be the definitive goal of one day bringing the original mission members home safely one day.

Sort of like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the water first. smile

Maxwell
Member
Maxwell
May 26, 2008 3:16 PM

If I was NASA I’d say “Sargent we thank you for your service, love your spirit, but hold that thought!”, and then go back to hammering out the return phase plans.

I think the proposal was just a provocative thought experiment. We can go to mars with what we know now, but obviously thats no good if we cant get men and equipment back.

The latter part gets easier once you’ve convinced everyone that getting to Mars is simple.

Gary
Guest
Gary
May 26, 2008 3:23 PM

It often takes someone who others think is crazy to move man into the newest frontiers of science. Ruth represents the mindset that has achieved much in our history. But frankly I don’t see NASA doing it, they have the public to pander to. Such a gutsy mission will be a private endeavor or not at all.

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