Mars One is either the craziest project humans have ever undertaken, or pure genius. The plan is to send 4 colonists, 2 men and 2 women, on a one-way trip to the Red Planet in 2023. So far 78,000 human Earthlings have applied. 80% are men. 20% are women. No pets or other species of animals have volunteered and one can assume the plants that these Martian colonists will take with them are conscripted and have no say in the matter.
On August 3rd Bas Lansdorp, the CEO of Mars One met with 50 Mars One applicants at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. They watched a screening of a new film, One Way Astronaut which you can find online as pay-per-view. The proceeds earned by the film will be one of the many ways Mars One will fund the project without resorting to government or tax payers. How much money are we talking about? An estimated $6 billion to get the first 4 colonists settled with the money coming from the selling of sponsorships and broadcasting rights to what will be a global live reality television show featuring the colonists with all of us here here on Earth watching.
We are three years away from the first flight in this project. It will take place in 2016 with the launch of a communication satellite to circle Mars and become the communication hub in support of subsequent missions. In 2018 a robotic rover will follow. It will land on Mars and begin to search for the best location for a human settlement. Once that is determined new missions will begin in 2020. Each will involve the delivery of life support modules for human habitation. A support team of robotic rovers will also be delivered to prepare the habitats for the first human crew. They will leave Earth for Mars in the fall (northern hemisphere) of 2022 and arrive on the surface of Mars in spring 2023. A second group of colonists will follow in 2025. And we’ll all be watching down here on Earth.
When candidates were asked why they would voluntarily go on a one-way mission to Mars, one responded, “It’s literally something that I’ve wanted forever.” One cannot help but think about those who first set out from Europe to found the colonies in Virginia and Massachusetts back in the 17th century. They were also on one-way trips to a world far different from the one they knew. The big differences however are noticeable. Mars One colonists first of all are going a lot farther than a 6 week voyage across the North Atlantic. And unlike the American colonists here on Earth Mars One voyagers on arrival will find no natives resident to help them and no plants and animals to harvest. Hopefully the robot helpers will have created a satisfactory life support environment in assembling the modules and will have planted and started harvesting crops to create a food supply for the arriving colonists. These Martian colonists won’t have an option afforded the early American colonists. There will be no sailing ship in the harbor capable of returning home should circumstances turn bad. But it appears that is no deterrence for many of these 50 wannabee Martians. As one stated “even if the risk of failing were 99%…I would go.”
I have a few questions about this venture and its potential significance.
- What if existing rovers like Opportunity and Curiosity discover evidence of existing life on Mars between now and 2023? Will that curtail a Mars One mission?
- When the first Martian colonists get settled will they be employees of Mars One? If so and they decide to quit where can they live?
- What will constitute ownership and individual rights for Mars One colonists?
- Will children born to Mars One colonists be the property of the enterprise or will they be able to go out on their own and found new settlements on the planet?
- Will Mars One colonists eventually get tired of playing reality characters, rebel and set up their own independent planet nation? Will Mars One then send an army to retake the colony? And will that army be human or robotic?
I’m sure you can think of all kinds of questions for the Mars One organizers. Send them to me and I’ll pass them along.