Maybe you have heard about it, or maybe you haven’t, but Man… Man is headed to Mars! …. or at least Man is going to try!
In recent years space expeditions have shifted focus towards reaching the red planet. Of the different campaigns to travel to Mars, Mars One has probably gotten the most press recently. As stated on their site, Mars One’s goal is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024, with a first unmanned mission in 2018.
For good or bad, Mars One is taking the Colonialism Era approach. Send out explorers without the guarantee of return and see what happens. And despite the obvious one-way ticket approach of their endeavor, there are an abundant source of participants ready to step up for this, literally and figuratively, ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Mars One had over 200,000 applicants, and recently whittled that field down to a little over a thousand. Over the next few years these individuals will undergo training that should in theory prepare them for one of the most daunting missions mankind has ever undertaken.
A million ways to die… choose one. That is one manner of thinking about the challenges that lay before the Mars One group. Mars is a barren wasteland, and though it may have once been habitable, any water that may have once existed on the red planet is either frozen at the poles or loss to space. The gravity on mars is half of what it is on Earth, the atmosphere is contained of 95% carbon dioxide, and hazardous dust storms swirl across the planet.
To top it all off, mars lacks a protective magnetic field, so solar radiation reaches the surface unimpeded. Death from radiation sickness is about as bad as it gets. Vomiting and diarrhea until you die… and if you are an astronaut on the Mars One expedition, you get to share this wonderful experience with your fellow astronauts in the cramped confinements of your martian home. Oh Joy! Speaking of cramped quarters, there is also the psychological challenges of existing in essentially a tiny box, hurtling through space for months on end.
Despite these challenges, I for one am glad there is a concerted effort by the space community to attempt to tackle this mission. If Mars One and its team can overcome what are undoubtedly a number of hurdles, Mars One’s approach of acting as a “funding umbrella”, bringing together and contracting experienced astronautical companies, might in the end be the approach that gets humans away from Earth and onto other planets.
You can follow Mars One’s efforts at their site: http://www.mars-one.com/