Artist concept of the Mars One lander, a variant on the SpaceX Dragon. Credit: Mars One

Humans on Mars by 2023?

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
by

Reality TV goes to Mars! Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is leading a group visionaries and businesspeople who want to send four humans to Mars by 2023, and they say they can achieve their goal at an estimated cost of $6 billion USD. How can they do it? By building it into a global media spectacle. And oh, by the way, this will be a one-way trip.

“Who would be able to look away from an adventure such as this one?” asks Lansdorp in his bio on the Mars One website. “Who wouldn’t be compelled to watch, talk about, get involved in the biggest undertaking mankind has ever made? The entire world will be able to follow this giant leap from the start; from the very first astronaut selections to the established, independent village years later. The media focus that comes with the public’s attention opens pathways to sponsors and investors.”

As far as the one-way mission (a concept that Universe Today has written about extensively) the Mars One website notes, “this is no way excludes the possibility of a return flight at some point in the future.”

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The difference between this mission and the one proposed by Jim McLane back in 2008 is that McLane wanted to send just one person to Mars.

However, the Mars One group says that once the first trip is successful and Mars becomes developed, it will be “much easier to build the returning rocket there.”

In a Q&A on reddit, Lansdorp said the biggest challenge will be financing.

“We have estimated, and discussed with our suppliers that it will cost about 6 billion US$ to get the first crew of four people to Mars. We plan to organize the biggest media event ever around our mission. When we launch people to Mars and when they land, the whole world will watch. After that a lot of people will be very interested to see how ‘our people on Mars’ are doing.”

But the big challenge is that the biggest expenditures will be building the equipment before they send people to Mars. “This is why we are building a very strong technical case now. If we can convince sponsors and investors that this will really happen, then we believe that we can convince them to help us finance it,” Lansdorp said.

As far as technologies, Mars One expects to use a SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy as a launch vehicle, a transit vehicle/space habitat built by Thales Alenia Space, a variant on the SpaceX Dragon as the lander, an inflatable habitat built by ILC Dover, a rover vehicle by MDA Space Missions, and Mars spacesuits made by Paragon.

The project website says “no new technologies” will be needed, but does any space agency or company really have a good handle on providing providing ample air, oxygen, energy, food and water for extended (lifetimes?) periods of time? Instead, the website provides more details on FAQ’s like, What will the astronauts do on Mars? Why should we go to Mars? Is it safe to live on Mars? How does the Mars base communicate with Earth? And the Mars One team emphasizes that this can be done with current technology. However, no one really knows how to land large payloads on Mars yet, so at least some development will be required there.

Who will go? Later this year they will begin to take applications and eventually 40 people will take part in a rigid, decade-long training program (which sounds very expensive) where the ‘contestants” will essentially be voted off the island to get to the final four astronauts. The selection and training process will be broadcast via television and online to public, with viewers voting on the final selected four.

It’s an intriguing proposition, but one filled with technological hurdles. I’ve just finished reading Ben Bova’s “Mars,” so I’m also thinking the Mars One folks will need to be on the lookout for micrometeorite swarms.

Mars One website.

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70 Responses

  1. I love the idea of the one way trip.

  2. gopher652003 says:

    Note that you linked to the incomplete version of the video (I suspect that someone accidently uploaded the wrong version of the video).

    Here’s the updated version, where they fixed most of the greenscreen issues:

    http://youtu.be/n4tgkyUBkbY

  3. Rick Eyerdam says:

    Reality show: one comes back from Mars
    By Rick Eyerdam

    Two scientists, have joined the list of proponents who have proposed that astronauts take a one-way trip to Mars to save money and save embarrassment on the part of NASA which does not know how to build a launch rocket and return system capable of landing living astronauts on Mars and returning them safely on earth

    Invoking images of Star Trek, the paper called “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars,” Dirk Schulze-Makuch of WSU and Paul Davies of ASU, was published in the non-juried Journal of Cosmology.

    The two scientists wrote that removing a flight back to earth would prove beneficial in several respects as it would cut costs, enable human beings to establish a base camp, and start up a colony on the Martian surface. The space explorers would be provided with food and supplies periodically when needed during the course of their mission.

    “It is important to realize that this is not a ‘suicide mission,’” the paper said. “The astronauts would go to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony.”

    The authors compared space colonists with the first European colonists of North America, who sailed to America not planning to return to Europe with syphilis, although many did, killing millions.

    Of course the entire idea is tripe unless the astronauts are scientists who can operate the very heavy and complex scientific instruments they will need to take along to accurately identify the chirality of Martian amino acids and also count the number of amino acids in the DNA of Martian microbes. These are the only two experiments that would actually contribute to the advancement of astrobiology and thus justify the mission.

    We are fairly certain today that Viking found evidence of life on Mars. And most scientists believe that life on Mars and life on Earth probably came from the same third source because both planets are too young for chemical evolution to run its almost infinite course. When we find proof of life on Mars we have only proven life can travel among nearby planets, unless life on Mars is different from life on Earth. And that cosmic consequence requires the chirality and amino acid examination. You can google why.

    So I propose an alternative to a dead end mission to Mars. Let’s make it a reality show.

    First we sign up the sponsors to cover the cost of a cheap round trip to Mars and we offer them this plot. Two astronauts, a man and a woman of great appeal are selected to fly to Mars. They must compete with other astronauts to get on the flight. And they must compete to accomplish every task successfully along the way. The audience gets to vote for their favorite by logging on the Mars Mission ap or on-line at their store. Perhaps Lunesta could be the sponsor, or GEICO.

    When our two astronauts get to Mars and do their research the fans get to vote on which one of them gets to come home with the Mars rocks. There is not enough power or air in the return vehicle for both, plus the very important rocks. The other must stay.

    In a surprise ending they fall in love and both decide to stay and await the next wave of immigrants.

    Ray Bradbury called Star Trek a Wagon Train episode in space. Need we say more?

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    • ose marvin says:

      This is an excellent show idea. I hope it truly is a one-way trip and they send george w bush, silvio berlusconi, vladimir putin and kim jong-un to mars… That’s what I would call a good start 🙂

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Unfortunately your astrobiology comments were edited out, I was going to respond.

      Essentially you have misunderstood the usefulness of astrobiology research. What NASA has already done, check for extant or extinct liquid water, is a start.

      MSL will extend that to a similar search for organics and their preservation conditions. (Incidentally, it will do double duty. A recent paper has revealed that the massive sulfuric sediments that HiRISE and MERs sees can be predicted out of snow fall and melt during ~ 0.1 % of Mars chaotic orbit trajectory since it was aggregated. This means the top of Gale crater may be explained by such water.)

      What remains is to check for other type of fossils, or possibly extant crustal life – this project may help out with that. All this will hugely inform astrobiology on habitablity potential of terrestrial planets.

  4. Peter O'Connor says:

    strikes me as a terrible colonial debut in the system. and sad too, borderline psychotic, with that guy all like ‘ooo this is going to be such an interesting experiment, lets get started!”. yeah right pal. we all get to watch people go insane and then die in a sorry excuse for a colony. Ask yourselves this “What would i need on the ground and in orbit in order to agree to become a colonist on Mars.” draw it out until you can say confidently “yes, i would now go to colonize Mars”. Now ask, Why should we force our debut colonists to be stuck in a few square meters of habitable space virtually incapable of doing most anything but waiting to die while we enjoy our tv “reality”. Is Mars 1 simply hoping that human psychology will force a rescue mission that will make incredible drama? who knows. All i know is that I will protest this plan if they try to move forward. I think this will be a sad choice if it flies.

    • Peter O'Connor says:

      like that rover is gunna pull up the capsules in a nice neat row like that too… these guys are lost in the sauce man. It actually kinda seems like an idea that would have come out of nazi germany to me. Freaky

      • zkank says:

        I believe you’re the very first aficionado of astronomy (I’m assuming that is why you are at this site) I’ve ever “met” that didn’t have a sense of adventure…

        All three of your posts – bummer, man!

      • Peter O'Connor says:

        hehehe! if ya only knew me 🙂 Im for adventure, im less for non-enabling bad plans. The resources are indeed out there to put together a serious colony that will truly enable us to spread out more and learn. I want more for Mars 1, and thats what is compelling me to write like this here. Imagine the falcon supadupa heavy launching 3 story capsules designed link together in a colony with nice bay windows on the top floor. some capsules launched could be garages, labs, sleeping quarters, workshops…all within the launch capacity of the falcon bigtime heavy, whatever their future behemoth will be called. So thats what im pushing for for colonization- def. not ever taking a capsule like dragon out of low earth orbit- instead docking to something righteous and going cruise mode.

    • bugzzz says:

      I agree. This whole thing sound like a stunt. Voting people off to see who goes to Mars? Yeah I’m sure that will vet the best candidate for losing their lives in space. The profit motive corrupts this idea from the start.

  5. DarkGnat says:

    I don’t think they are thinking about all of the variables, and many variable remain unknown.

    However, this might be the only way to see humans on Mars in our lifetime.

    • Peter O'Connor says:

      i would rather have everyone here at home happy in the sunshine and breeze than having to actually claim the existence of humans slowly rotting away in a tiny box on another planet probably loosing their mind. I would be more proud to be human if everyone here on earth happy and in comfort.

      • Wezley Jackson says:

        …vent edited… I would love to see humanity branch out but obviously it behooves us to take care of our world before moving to a new one.. That said, Apollo program brought many great techs nasa developed back to earth.. Perhaps they could do an asteroid instead.. The one-way ticket concept, even with billions of $$ thrown at it is sheer lunacy, unless someone finds an underground cave with gigalitres of potable water in it..

      • delphinus100 says:

        Even if this particular one isn’t practical, some of us *do* want to go take risks for whatever we consider worthwhile reasons, Peter.

        Nor is every single inch of *this* planet an idyllic playground, either…

  6. joseluis j says:

    Sounds a little bit wicked

  7. Aqua4U says:

    Am not liking the ‘out in the open’ habitat location shown. Two words – Lava Tube. Use robotics locate and explore potential sites… get serious about rad and dust mitigation!

    • lcrowell says:

      These astronauts will be exposed to a high and constant dose of radiation.

      LC

    • Aerandir90 says:

      That graphic may possibly be misleading though. From their FAQ section:

      Astronauts traveling to Mars are exposed to around 2 to 2.5 times the amount of radiation as those currently on the International Space Station. On the planet itself, the double protection of its atmosphere and the ground covering the Units means that they will receive much less than the ISS astronauts, who are exposed to a factor of 5 at all times.

      So they probably do intend to use dirt to create a blockade for the crew though they don’t really specify how. There’s no mention of such plans on their ‘Technology’ page so I don’t know what to conclude with regards to that plan.

      • Earthling4 says:

        I was taught that lead was an effective barrier to radiation, as with the leaded aprons worn over the torso when one has dental x-rays made. I know that lead is also a cause of cognitive diminishment but if properly controlled this adverse effect can be avoided and possibly lead-coating radiation barriers can strategically be put on the coverings and/or insulation of spacecraft and astronaut space suits, as well as on the coverings or insulation of human settlement dwellings, facilities and plumbing on Mars.

      • lcrowell says:

        Lead is heavy and providing appropriate shielding with lead means considerable costs with the mission.

        LC

      • PattersonWillard24 says:

        my friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $19177 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here

        ?????? (Click At My Name For Link)

      • Aerandir90 says:

        Unless you’re getting your lead from other sources aside from the Earth, it may be too expensive to use for shielding due to the launch costs associated with lead’s high density

      • delphinus100 says:

        “I was taught that lead was an effective barrier to radiation…”

        Depends on the radiation in question. Neutrons and the heavy nuclei of galactic cosmic rays are more readily attenuated by light elements. Thus all the suggestions for hydrogen-bearing materials like water, polyethylene plastics and paraffin.

      • SheppardJewell73 says:

        my buddy’s step-mother makes $62 hourly on the internet. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her check was $20978 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more here

        ?????? (Click At My Name For Link)

  8. Tore Blindheim says:

    Yeehhhh… Space race!! Or they’re setting up a camp in a desert somewhere and make us believe it’s on Mars.

    • delphinus100 says:

      Do you know the expression; “The only way two people can keep a secret, is if one of them is dead?”

      Just as with the Moon conspiracy theories, you could never have the necessary number of people guaranteed to keep quiet forever.

  9. BorgWorshipper says:

    Why would or could Thales Alenia Space build a SpaceX Dragon Rider? SpaceX built the Dragon to be manned and Mars rated using powered landings. The powered landings and manned version are still being tested, but the production lines are open.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      As I understand it Thales Alenia Space will build the transMars craft using ISS type of meteorite and radiation shielded sections. This is what NASA plans for their longtime translunar crafts too.

  10. Aerandir90 says:

    Haste makes waste.

    • gopher652003 says:

      I agree. But at the same time, they are billing this as a reality TV show. A death or 2 in the first few groups of settles will give them a ratings bump. It’s sad, but I’m sure they’ve taken that possibility into consideration.

      Of course I’m sure they’re hoping for picture perfect missions and a swiftly growing population on Mars, but if something bad does happen, well, it isn’t the end of the world:P.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      I don’t think one-way settlers intend to play it safe. But it would behoove the project to check if years of Mars gravity is survivable for humans first.

      • Aerandir90 says:

        If a long duration mission to purely test the effects of Martian gravity is desired, then it can be done in an orbital outpost with artificial-G systems in a much more controlled environment. It will be much cheaper and safer. Not only can you study physiology but you can also experiment on hydroponics or perhaps even Mars-soil based agriculture. In fact, I don’t see this as an alternative but as one of many pre-requisite stepping-stone missions as part of greater long-term colonization research studies.

      • Gore Gogore says:

        would you pay for that test ?

  11. Zoutsteen from Holland says:

    We gonna see a half mars 500 project with a gaschamber at the end to see if it works before investing 6bn?

    I’m sorry, big no to me. This just just lunacy.

  12. Shawn says:

    It would make a heck of a lot more sense to look for caves to live in, you can eventually control the atmosphere in them, grow food, and provide larger living quarters. I think the idea is completely wacked out though. We need to develop a colony on the moon first.
    Mars is going to take more than those little piddled up “habitats”, and anyone who would go there to live in one needs their head examined. With a moon base, we would gain the knowledge necessary for Mars colonization, with less risk. They plan to pay for it with media sensationalism, but then when the hoopla dies down, the people on Mars would be left with their **** hanging in the wind.

  13. I don’t like the whole “reality TV” aspect… but… if it gets us to Mars in my lifetime, pass the popcorn.

  14. Darrin Mattson says:

    So humans kill each other by the thousands every year ( take a look at Syria for just a taste of atrosities) and the only risk there was being born in a place on Earth that that happens. There are comments here from some worried about these risk takers welfare. I can’t come up with a logical arguement that says this is stupid and what happens if they get hurt or sick. So what. Are people going to die going to Mars? Duh! If i signed up for it and was lucky enough to go, let me worry about the outcome. I am so tired about hearing others views on safety. Almost sounds like a religion thing that anyone ‘crazy” enough to do such a thing needs to be ‘saved’ from themselves. Bull! Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that this cannot be done (and won’t) in 11 years unless we humans really want it. As far as I can tell, we are not done killing each other here on Earth yet for us to try to get to another planet (and start killing each other there). Heck we havn’t tried to even get back to the moon. As far as turning it into a reality show, at least if it is interesting, it may make some money to pay for it. BTW, this announcement is an exercise just to see if it might garner enough intrest to generate the money to even start to get this out of the imagination of a few and make it happen. We have a very long road before any human really gets off of this planet and heads for the great unknown to never come back, but it is a start. Everything starts with imagining it and I welcome it. In conclusion, stop thinking of all the bad things that will happen and think of ways that we can make it happen. Use your imagination.

    • delphinus100 says:

      “As far as I can tell, we are not done killing each other here on Earth yet for us to try to get to another planet…”

      We went to the Moon (itself an aspect of the Cold War) at the height of the Vietnam War. As much as some might not like humanity to leave Earth until we’re all good little boys and girls (as if that’s likely, or that the Universe cares either way), one has nothing to do with the other.

  15. Darrin Mattson says:

    So humans kill each other by the thousands every year ( take a look at Syria for just a taste of atrosities) and the only risk there was being born in a place on Earth that that happens. There are comments here from some worried about these risk takers welfare. I can’t come up with a logical arguement that says this is stupid and what happens if they get hurt or sick. So what. Are people going to die going to Mars? Duh! If i signed up for it and was lucky enough to go, let me worry about the outcome. I am so tired about hearing others views on safety. Almost sounds like a religion thing that anyone ‘crazy” enough to do such a thing needs to be ‘saved’ from themselves. Bull! Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that this cannot be done (and won’t) in 11 years unless we humans really want it. As far as I can tell, we are not done killing each other here on Earth yet for us to try to get to another planet (and start killing each other there). Heck we havn’t tried to even get back to the moon. As far as turning it into a reality show, at least if it is interesting, it may make some money to pay for it. BTW, this announcement is an exercise just to see if it might garner enough intrest to generate the money to even start to get this out of the imagination of a few and make it happen. We have a very long road before any human really gets off of this planet and heads for the great unknown to never come back, but it is a start. Everything starts with imagining it and I welcome it. In conclusion, stop thinking of all the bad things that will happen and think of ways that we can make it happen. Use your imagination.

  16. Ethan Walker says:

    it will be “much easier to build the returning rocket there.”

    This is plainly batshit crazy. Interplanetary propulsion systems are not among the initial products that a fledgling mars industry would be capable of producing. Also, given that >80% of the return craft mass at liftoff would be fuel, and there are perfectly reasonable plans for in situ fueling on mars, this plan is not only delusional but unnecessary. As for those saying that this is exactly the sort of thing we need to inspire further investment in space, I would counter that if you treat mars exploration like a stunt, people will likely think of it as a stunt, and when the stunt ends in tears don’t be surprised if mars exploration goes the way of moon exploration.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      I took it to mean that they could assemble delivered parts and produce in situ fuel (totally if they get to water, else with the help of a little delivered hydrogen) for a return craft if needed.

      Presumably colonizers doesn’t want to return if they can make a life and establish families on Mars. But some will, and eventually their children may want to. They may never be able to visit Earth, plastically adapted as their bodies will be to a much lower gravity, but they may visit or return to LEO space stations.

  17. Earthling4 says:

    Proceed with caution and care: A a long-term simulation real-life Mars village, with bio-medically and psychologically fit, compatible and appropriate male and female humans, prefiguring the village to be established on Mars, should be first established on Earth first in a test or trial environment best resembling the Mars settlement environment for identifying and resolving otherwise unforeseen glitches and problems in the village operation and human relations and functioning in the actual Mars village. Several different test groups individually should successively be rotated through the simulation village. The village buildings should be covered with solar panels and have on-site molten salt solar electric storage for nighttime solar electricity retrieval (together making for endless and continuous day-and-night solar electricity generation) and recently developed night solar cells (developed by Lawrence Livermore Lab in Berkeley, CA) and a wind turbine farm should be set up (although Mars is terribly cold, it has sparse cloud cover and gets plenty of sunlight and is a permanently windy planet) for generating electricity for heating and cooking as well as melting ice into water for plumbing, irrigation, agriculture and gardening, sanitation, hygiene and fuel making). The village should be outfitted with multiple biodigesters for converting human toilet, food and agricultural waster into methane-gas fuel energy and electricity as well as, the byproduct of this, high quality plant fertilizer. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and electrical generators should also be present. Facilities should be loaded with living and entertainment amenities to make dwelling in such a restricted and barren environment as tolerable and pleasant as possible for the long term or a lifetime for all. Decades-lasting supplies of psychopharmaceuticals and medicines of all kinds should in stock to aide settlers, as needed, to deal with unpredictable and intolerable adverse psychological reactions (like extreme and lasting homesickness, despondency and extreme depression, mental breakdown, or psychosis, rage fits and outbursts, sexual frustration, frenzy and aggression/-iveness and romantic and friendship betrayal, jealousies and conflicts) and biological sicknesses, mortal ailing and dying). Plenty of spare parts and replacements should also be in stock for all machinery, equipment and devices and materials, community and personal.

  18. Trevor says:

    I’m disappointed that Universe Today would waste digital space on this obvious fraud. I thought you guys prided yourselves on debunking people like Bas Landsdorp.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      I think they can leave it to their readership.

      What is your basis to claim obvious fraud? I can’t see that.

  19. Trevor says:

    I’m disappointed that Universe Today would waste digital space on this obvious fraud. I thought you guys prided yourselves on debunking people like Bas Landsdorp.

  20. letsjustdoit says:

    Is it April 1st today?
    But just for fun, I reckon the cave idea is best. They will need room to have a bit of fun and develop new sports like variations of table tennis and snooker/pool.

  21. Brenda Jean Louise says:

    A one way trip? Now that’s preposterous. Especially for a first run attempt. No new technology? Methinks a fradulent scheme is afoot. But then again, there are plenty of dupes willing to vote against the Democrats for one reason or another. -P.T.Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute-

  22. lcrowell says:

    Gerard ‘t Hooft is one of the major physicist of the latter 20th century. I think he initially had it right about this. It is interesting that he later signed off on this program. There is a curious tendency for great scientists to go off on some quirky trend in their later career Hawking recently sounded off about invading space aliens, and Pauling spend the last decades of his life on a bizarre vitamin C trend.

    This program is the last thing I would want to do. If you do go to Mars you are forced to spend the rest of your life confined in this cramped habitat cobbled together from capsule-landers. Going outside of course requires wearing a spacesuit. This appears to be a perfect prescription for going insane.

    This program is clearly designed to work on some absolute minimum. The quoted $6 billion cost is absurdly low of course, where such a mission profile on even the most minimal engineering specs would likely cost ten times that. It also means that to reduce costs thing like the health physics or safety concerns are minimized. The crew of this mission would be subjected to a constant dose of radiation up to 10 times that on Earth, and solar CMEs could produce transient radiation doses far higher. In fact the crew could die before they even reach Mars because of this.

    Without continual follow on missions there is no point to this. Putting four astronaut-colonists on Mars so they live out to the last of their days is of no purpose unless there is some follow up of more astronaut-colonists. It seems strange to just put up this colony on Mars only to watch the inhabitants age and die, probably fairly quickly due to radiation induced cancer or sickness, and to terminate the program there. If the purpose of this is to explore Mars then it seems preferable to put robots on Mars.

    LC

    • Gore Gogore says:

      you`re joking right ? Cause there are a lot of us that believes it`s nicer to die there than here of the same problems as one would die there (only from other causes)…I for example prefer to die the death of a conqueror than the slow death of a slave. Even if a slave of the Earth…

      • lcrowell says:

        There is a host of things not right with this idea. The average temperature of Earth is about that of freezing water. The average temperature on Mars is that of dry ice. It is really cold. So one little bit that appears to have been neglected is the necessary propane service needed just to keep warm. Oh and yeah, you need to have the oxygen service as well given the Martian thin atmosphere of CO_2. It will require a lot of solar panels to run anything, particularly given the solar irradiance is about half that on Earth. It would require football fields of solar panels to provide electric heat. This project did not mention dragging a nuclear power plant with them.

        Frankly I could well imagine growing old in some place like New Caledonia, spending my last years on the beach, enjoying the warm sunsets and generally farting around. That sounds a whole lot better than hunkering down in some space habitat that after a couple of years will start to smell like a locker room.

        LC

      • wjwbudro says:

        Was wondering when someone was going to address the basics, like the need to breath, eat and maintain body temp for a few years or so?

      • lcrowell says:

        The website is pretty glib about some of these issues. In particular one of the landers is a supply store with all the food and so forth. Again that is not gong to work. The average human consumes about a half ton of food a year. For four people on Mars that is two tons per year, 20 tons for a decade and … . Growing food would be very hard. You would have to set up a biodome of some kind with complicated environmental controls, oxygen production, CO_2 scrubbers and so forth. The Martian soil would have to be completely reconditioned chemically and biologically. The Martian regolith is full of perchlorates, so growing something in that would be like watering your garden with bleach. Since the material is biologically dead FAPP, you would need to carry fertilizer to set up a biodome for gardening or horticulture. If there are Martian microbes living in that regolith that complicates things considerably. The challenge would be formidable and very expensive.

        This is the latest of the space colony fantasies, which I suspect will burn off like the morning fog as have previous ones. Seriously, the more you think about it the problems with really trying to live on another planet are huge. Even just a visit is a tough problem. The other thing is that extreme environments humans have gone into always involve a type of enclosure with a complicated environmental system. There have been some undersea habitats established for a while, Antarctic stations are much the same, and clearly any habitat system in space is a double down on the same. These extreme environments mean one is not going into then for the freedom of expanse and elbow room, but really one is forced into a confined enclosure. So far all of these have required constant resupply trips from the outside world as well. The more extreme the environment the more costly is the maintenance of a habitat, the more supplies and fuel are needed, and the more its inhabitants rely with their lives upon the functional working order of the system. In the case of something in space you have the energy costs of getting out of Earth’s gravity field and with Mars you have the long distance between the two planets as well.

        We may simply have to face the possibility that space is something we can explore by virtual reality through probes, instruments or robots around or on other planets, but which is simply not a set of environments we humans are going to set ourselves up in.

        LC

      • wjwbudro says:

        Thanks LC. It amazes me that these pie in the sky ideas keep making headlines; A few backers with a few billion and we’re on our way! The issues you hit on are but a scratch on the surface. I have but a mere fraction of the knowledge you possess and with just a bit of research even I can appreciate the complexity, not to mention draining Fort Knox (assuming there’s something left to drain) to finance it.

      • lcrowell says:

        There are a range of issues glibly discussed. The colony does not seem to have a general power system, nor are the power requirements per person laid out. Manned space systems are worked out into great detail, down to how many grams of food or kilowatts of power per day are used by each of the crew. This grand idea seems to ignore an explicit requirements or specs for a general power system that can run life support systems, lighting, water recycling and so forth.

        This is really more absurd than the recent announcement about mining asteroids. This ignored a large number of complicated issues. It is easy to draw up a web page with pictures or video CGI depictions, just as artists in the 1950s drew up pictures of lunar colonies or the big circular station in space and so forth. I suspect that in time this will fade out as have other space colony ideas.

        If there is even a slim chance for humanity in space, it must come with the next economic step. As near as I can see, this next step most likely or probable is with solar power satellites. The human element might come in with the maintenance of such systems. The commodity is massless and nowhere as complicated as mineral extraction from an asteroid. Solar power satellites have at this time a margin of a clear mission objective, by way contrast with plopping several guys down on Mars to live out the rest of their lives.

        LC

  23. DavidKSharp says:

    I like Zubrin’s Idea of sending a light front loader/backhoe. Remember that a Methane burning internal combustion engine can run in Mars atmosphere. A trench (some explosives might be needed) say 15 meters by 30 meters could be excavated and lightweight modular composite arches could then be erected to span the trench and covered with composite panels that are rolled over or laid across the arches and covered with a meter of soil. at the end of the trench, which would shallow out to the surface, an airlock could be fixed in place and sealed off with soil. This would create a huge radiation proof pressurized volume in which modular composite structures could be built. In fact, I’m note sure that Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan couldn’t be done for the same price as Mars One which would not strand people there for the rest of their lives.I encourage everyone to read his book, “The Case for Mars” and compare it to this plan. Mars One would cost 6 Billion according to McLane but Zubrin’s Mars Direct was estimated to be around 4 to 8 Billion if done by the private sector (40 Billion if by NASA) for ten manned missions.

  24. DavidKSharp says:

    I’m not sure that Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan, which would not strand people on the planet for the rest of their lives, couldn’t be done for the same price as Mars One .I encourage everyone to read Zubrin’s book, “The Case for Mars” and compare it to this plan. Mars One would cost 6 Billion according to McLane but Zubrin’s Mars Direct was estimated to be around 4 to 8 Billion if done by the private sector for ten manned missions.

  25. DarkGnat says:

    I think setting up an outpost in a cave or lava tube would be best, as it would shield them from radiation. However they will still get high doses on the way to Mars. A powerful magnetic field might protect them, but it would also make it difficult to communicate with the spacecraft.

    A one way trip is lunacy though. The “contestants” would probably begin to suffer from various mental disorders within months. They may lose it, and decide to take a walk without a pressure suit or something.

    I could see a temporary trip, with a return vehicle. Yes it doubles (at least) the cost of the mission, but allowing the astronauts to come back as heros would be a major moral booster for the world. Plus leaving them to die (send all the supplies you want, but that’s still what it is) is just wrong. I’m sure they will have to sign a waver, but what if they change their minds and beg to come home? Are we cruel enough to leave them? If we are going to send supply ships, why not send a return ship?

    This would make a great movie (with actors and special effects) but not a “reality” show.

    That said, I could see a “Survivor – LEO” show someday.

    • delphinus100 says:

      “A powerful magnetic field might protect them, but it would also make it difficult to communicate with the spacecraft.”

      Magnetic fields don’t affect the passage of radio-frequency signals…but if not carefully excluded from the ship’s habitable volumes, strong magnetic fields have biological effects of their own…

      • A strong magnetic field inside a planet’s atmosphere would very likely generate a plasma in the area it affects. It’s this plasma which could hinder the passage of radio waves… Also, having a plasma to walk through each time you need to go outside would be quite a technical hassle, I think.

      • delphinus100 says:

        DarkGnat was addressing exposure ‘on the way to Mars.’

        Once on the surface, you have passive brute-force mass options. Especially if you can indeed find stable, accessible caves and lavatubes.

    • A non-metallic, inflatable habitat with a high hydrogen content would provide good radiation protection. Surrounding the habitable space with drinking-water, which doubles as storage, can further reduce radiation exposure.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    I just saw this proposal yesterday, and now it explodes with interest here!

    What they have managed to do is to cover the enterprize with a possible media cash inflow throughout. I didn’t believe that was possible, so initially I had the same reaction as the wellknown physicist ‘t Hooft.

    Now, that ‘t Hooft changed his mind may not mean much.*

    The entrepreneuralship of Lansdorp is what I can see confined to a wind energy startup that proposes to use automatic sailplanes reeling out lines to generate electric power. Needless to say the market for such technology is limited as they run up against safety and land use constraints.

    I think this technological naiveté is mirrored in parts of the suggested venture.

    Crafts have to be transported within a larger landing zone by rovers that seem to use solar power – the current MERs provide some few hundred watt – or possibly by methane & oxygen insitu production from the martian CO2 atmosphere by hauling seed hydrogen with.

    In my personal summation, a not too insane proposal that could work at least as well as similar ones. Commercial competition will be good for the area in any case.

    no one really knows how to land large payloads on Mars yet, so at least some development will be required there.

    That is correct, but the recent NASA study on the Red Dragon concept seem to verify that you can land a Dragon with at least 1 mt of cargo in the lower parts of Mars (~ 1 km below the geode). Especially the northern plains would be a reasonable target.

    This already approach or exceed the capability of the NASA type of sky crane. A larger Dragon would presumably land a larger cargo mass.

    ——————————-
    * ‘t Hooft, as so many theoretical physicists, puts part of his effort into exploratory science. But he has now long been on a sustained effort to show the basis for quantum mechanics wrong and replace it with a classical statistical approach, one of the very predictions QM makes is an erroneus approach.

  27. pepper2000 says:

    It would be neat to put humans on Mars, but I think the benefits of doing so are rather amorphous and overstated. We are already learning a vast amount through rovers, and I think that continuing to use rovers to explore Mars, and other planets/moons, will be of much greater value, not to mention greater practicality, than humans. Think about the advances in robotics and even artificial intelligence that would have great benefits on Earth.

    • delphinus100 says:

      “We are already learning a vast amount through rovers, and I think that continuing to use rovers to explore Mars, and other planets/moons,”

      You assume that ‘science’ is the only, or even the main reason humans leave Earth. It’s not. Science is rightly along for the ride, but it never has been the real reason.

      If it was just basic research, and if Antarctica is any kind of model, you might want a permanent presence, but not permanent colonists.

    • Aerandir90 says:

      We could learn vastly more at greater rates if there were humans there to tend to various tasks. Carl Sagan talks about this more in his book Cosmos but just to summarize:
      1) Roving vehicles will be able to travel faster and take on more risk, not just in terms of speed but also without long communication delays preventing an unmanned rover from getting far quickly.
      2) Human eyes and dexterity can greatly complement our friendly bots to perform quicker science and therefore make on-spot decisions about what rock to peer at or what crater to go to next.
      3) Humans can perform several maintenance tasks thus extending the lifespans of equipment/vehicles.

      Of course this all comes at the cost of human life-support but then again, can you truly put a price on questions like ‘Did/does Mars have life?’

      All that talk by the way leaves out the idea of colonizing Mars which sounds like something which I feel almost certain of transpiring by the end of this millennium at the very latest.

  28. This is freakin amazing!!!!!!!!! I would even consider going!! Wow!!! The moment commercial space flight gets a decent success, it seems, things really start happening!!! Many people have commented that we’ve been capable of getting there for years, and perhaps now that space flight has been liberated from a controlled administration into a free marketplace, it will!!!

    On a more serious note: I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Mars” a while back (awesome book!) where a large group is taken for training and slowly whittled down to a group of 100 to settle mars for a year, and in it Robinson has some very interesting technical themes, such as the use of bamboo as a building material. The main point being that in a lower gravity the materials don’t need to be as strong, and as it so happens (according to Robinson) bamboo fits beautifully as a building material on Mars! Now, I’m not suggesting they build buildings with the stuff, but still, imagine how cool it would be if they made the interior of their capsules/habitats even more liveable with bamboo furniture/stuff 😀

    Very random, I know. Just thought I’d share 😀

  29. Kawarthajon says:

    Yeah, they sure are hoping that it will be a media spectacle – they need money, lots and lots and lots and lots of money, to pull off a stunt like this. I don’t think they will be able to pull it off, however. Right now, they are just hoping that the spectacle will be enough to raise some cash and pay their salaries. Maybe good advertising for some of the other things the company does.

    Besides, $6 billion is peanuts. They will need a lot more than $6 billion to pull this off, I don’t care if they aren’t bringing people back. It costs about $5 billion to retrofit a nuclear power plant here on Earth, $1.5 billion per space shuttle launch and I really doubt they can pull off a Mars mission for a mere $6 billion. So beware potential investors – they will keep asking you for more and more money!

  30. tenstripe says:

    A one way trip would be alright if it were in the right circumstances. First, a quality life would have to be sustainable indefinately. The first martians would have to be at right age with several skill sets. They would know and accept the one way mission; nobody is going to live forever. Why stay several years then come back and die anyway? Once people settle down they really don’t like to move anyway.

  31. Dick Fineman says:

    all they need to do is land near the Face, find Don Cheadle, and decipher the genetic code that unlocks the entrance. It was always going to be a one way trip… 😛

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