Mars One - The Mission to Establish Human Settlement on Mars (failed)

The plan to go to Mars is not entirely new...

In popular culture Mars has for long been associated with extraterrestrial life. It now seems increasingly likely that humans will anticipate their visit to the red planet before any of their alien counterparts show up on earth. The imagination of Star Track fantasies aside, the idea of traveling to Mars is not entirely new. Wernher von Braun, the renown Ex-Nazi rocket engineer, published a book in 1952 entitled 'Project Mars', detailing plans for the first landing and settlement of humans on Mars. At the time even landing on the moon might have seemed like too ambitious a project. But that was exactly what was accomplished not too much later when in 1969 the first man actually set foot on the moon. While the exploration of space has since continued with projects like the International Space Station (ISS), more than four decades have passed since 1972 when man last time walked on the moon. Time is surely ripe for another groundbreaking mission. Unlike the past when space missions were supported only by superpowers, private initiative now plays a crucial role in the exploration of space.

Mars - The Red Planet

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Inspiration Mars by Dennis Tito

In February 2013 Dennis Tito, an investment manager, space enthusiast and already the first space tourist, unveiled Inspiration Mars. The project plans to launch a small spacecraft with two crew members to fly to Mars and back in a 501 day trip. Inspiration Mars is bold in that it has already scheduled a date for take off in 2018, taking advantage of orbital proximity, but the project falls short on one huge point: astronauts would simply fly around Mars (though coming as close as 150 km) before returning back to earth, but without actually landing on the red plant. Still no one has ever ventured as far as Mars, so even the success of a mission of this kind would be quite an achievement.

Mars One - Human settlement on Mars

And the boldest of Mars projects so far comes neither from NASA nor the Chinese, but an entirely private Dutch enterprise: Mars One. The ambitious venture plans to establish permanent human settlement on Mars with the first crew setting foot on Mars as soon as 2023! The biggest drawback of Mars One is that its bold space pioneers will have to remain on Mars for the rest of their lives, unable to return to earth. Bas Lansdorp, co founder of Mars One, thinks the excitement of being among the first conquerors of space will more than make up for the things left behind on earth. Scientific research on Martian geology (and perhaps biology) will, no doubt, keep the crew busy. Technology will also help to overcome boredom in their spare time as they will be able to play PC games, watch TV or surf the Web just like here on earth. Furthermore, the arrival of a new (additional) crew of four every two years will surely bring refreshment to the distant settlement.

Launch of Saturn rocket

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Can this be done?

But is such a bold project really realistic?

Mars One will mainly be financed by creating the biggest media event ever, not just around the first Mars landing itself, but by sharing life of the Mars settlement on a 24/7 basis (to be precise with a duration of 24,62h the Martian day is slightly longer). Being such a unique and spectacular, globally watched event it is expected the 6 billion USD required for the launch of the first crew will easily pour in from media rights, sponsors, sales of merchandise and donations.

From a technical point of view Mars One is much simpler than previous designs of Mars missions, mainly by eliminating the most challenging part, i.e. the return back to earth. Basically the diverse technical requirements for the Mars One mission do already exist and have been tested in one form or another. There is for one the launch rocket, but even bigger ones than the type required for Mars One have already been built. Secondly man already has the know-how to carry things to Mars, as the latest successful touchdown in August 2012 of the rover Curiosity has shown. Furthermore the International Space Station (ISS) has by now been inhabited for over a decade, so the experience in handling prolonged stays of humans in space is definitely there. What would be missing is the technology for the return mission, but this part would (sadly) not be required for Mars One.

Time schedule for Mars One

2016 - a communication satellite is sent to Mars

2018 - a large planetary rover is sent to find best location for settlement

2020 - in a total of 6 missions settlement components are sent (life support units, living units, a second rover)

2022 (September) - the first crew of four departs from Earth

2023 (April) - first group of four humans will land on Mars

Mars colony (futuristic)

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Mars One mission

Conditions on Mars

Of all the planets of our solar system Mars is the one most similar to earth, yet the differences between the two still overshadow their similarities. Mars is about 50 percent farther from the sun than the earth and not exactly the place you'd like to live. Aside form martian summertime with temperatures peaks of 20 C (70 F), normal temperatures on Mars are around minus 100 C (minus 150 F), even colder than the Antarctic. Unlike the moon Mars has an atmosphere, but it is so thin that the air pressure, consisting mainly of carbon dioxide and very little oxygen, is just one fifth of the the air pressure on mount Everest. No more walks in the morning for an intake of fresh air! There is also no liquid water on Mars, making it drier than the driest spot of the Sahara.

Final consideration

In planning for the establishment of a permanent human settlement on the red planet, Mars One is undoubtedly the most ambitious of the current projects. Personally though I'd rather book my ticket with Dennis Tito's shuttle. After all I prefer life on good, old planet earth. Bas Lansdorp claims that the Mars One mission will be the "the next giant leap for mankind". Only the future will tell.

Conquerors of space

Assuming the Mars One mission (one way) is technically risk-free would you...

  • Head to Mars to be counted among the first space pioneers
  • Prefer to spend your remaining days on planet earth
  • Participate in Mars One if enough people are there to form a city
See results without voting

Update Januray 1, 2015

As we've entered the new year 2015 fans of Mars One are still dreaming big, but signs are the mission cannot be carried out as planned. The launch of the rover mission has, for now, been postponed to 2020, while the launch of the first crew is now only planned 2024. Out of the 200,000 applicants Mars one has selected 1058 potentially suitable candidates (as of December 2013), later reduced to 705 (as of May, 2014. Mars One has yet to construct or even decide on the location of the simulation settlement for training. At the end of 2014 Mars One's website reports a revenue of only USD 630,000 (as of Sep 2014) from donations and the sell of marchandise. A large sum for selling mugs and T-Shirts, but not even peanuts to launch a space mission.

In the meantime NASA has launched its new spaceship Orion which could be further developed to carry humans to Mars. With the Mars One project already hopelessly behind its original schedule, chances are NASA will be the first to land humans on Mars. And, thankfully, bring them back to earth too.


Mission postponed (again)

As of July 2015 Mars One has again postponed the launch date of the first crew, now to 2026. According to the original schedule we should have been only months from the first launch of the communication satellite in 2016. What is even more telling is that because of an almost total lack of funding, the mission hasn't been moving forward at all, apart from its dubious astronaut selection process (NASA by contrast provides years of testing before the launch of a spacecraft). Furthermore, Endemol, the Dutch media company that was supposed to air a sort of Big-Brother show of the Mars settlement and provide the big chunk of the funding, has axed the contract with Mars One. It is clear by now that Mars One is not only hopelessly behind schedule but outright scam. One day humans will likely set foot on Mars, but it won't be Mars One. And it won't be in the next decade either.

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Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 3 years ago

Certainly sounds like an intriguing project Marco not to mention a totally novel form of reality tv, which is well overdue.Voting up & very interesting :)

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