The Mars One Foundation, an ambitious non-profit that plans to colonize the red planet has 30,000 volunteers who have finished the application requirements. They have many other applicants still in the process of enrolling; but those few that will be chosen for the missions should be aware of a significant catch: It is a one way trip.
The foundation plans to put its first group of 4 astronauts on the red planet on 2023. They will first have to pass a training program lasting several years, teaching them everything from first aid, to how to grow food and obtain water and air. A big emphasis of the training is dealing with the isolation of living in a remote location.
The profiles of the aspiring astronauts can be seen at the foundation’s website. Looking at some of them one wonders just how serious some of the applicants are, for example, there is a video of a Japanese man who chose to wear a bald cap for his profile, which one might call an “interesting” choice to say the least. He goes on to say that he wants to build a home for his favorite TV actress on Mars.
Applicants do have to pay a small fee to be considered for the missions; but it is nominal. The Mars One Foundation expects the $6 billion tab to be paid by sponsors, and by media that wants access to footage of the colonization of the red planet.
The teams of four people will begin training each year, starting in 2015, in facilities that will be similar to the installations that will be used for colonization. In 2016, the foundation plans to launch a lander as a trial run in advance of the manned missions, as well as a communications satellite to orbit Mars, so the astronauts can communicate with Earth. On 2018 a rover with a trailer will be sent to Mars in order to identify a site with the best conditions for the settlement. The trailer is for moving the landers to the colony area, as the capsules will be used for living space. On that same year, a second satellite will be launched, this time on Earth’s orbit around the sun to ensure that communications are not compromised when the star is between the two planets.
The first initial installations will be launched in July of 2020, and land on Mars in February of 2021, so the rover can set them up ahead of the manned missions. The objective of the installations is not terraforming, making the entire planet habitable; but creating an indoor environment that is livable. The rover will have to cover some of the facilities with soil because of cosmic radiation concerns. Water will be extracted from the ice in the ground, and a breathable atmosphere should be present in the facilities ahead of the arrival of the astronauts. In September of 2022, Mars One expects the first manned mission to be launched. Time travel is expected to be 210 days.
Critics have said the objective of the Mars One Foundation is too dangerous to attempt. NASA is exploring the possibility of short term missions to Mars, and The Inspiration Mars Foundation is also planning to launch a spacecraft toward the red planet, although their trip does not include landing there. So far Mars One is the only organization hoping to colonize; but the questions do still stand, can they pay for the astronomical price of the missions, and if so, even with financial backing, is such a far-reaching undertaking really possible with our current technology?
By Milton Ruiz