A one-way ticket to Mars has just moved one step closer to reality. The Dutch nonprofit organization, Mars One project, has announced round two of astronaut selection. These chosen applicants have been shortlisted to establish an outpost on the red planet in the next 10 years.
It was only 10 years ago when the robots Spirit and Opportunity roved across the dunes of Mars to seek out indications of past water activity. For those who have been selected for space travel to the red planet, it is like winning the Willy Wonka golden ticket, an opportunity of a lifetime. They appreciate the challenge on becoming the pioneers for a possible new habitable planet, much like the explorers to the new world.
The list of 202,000 applicants has dwindled down to 1,058 people from the United States and abroad. The goal of this privately funded Mars One project is to send a lander to Mars in 2018, and establish permanent human life on the red planet by 2025.
“It’s about being something greater than yourself,” Tim Gowan, a Missouri aerospace engineer stated when he learned he was selected into the next round of applicants. “Being a spokesperson for humanity, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. I applied because I thought I fit the bill of someone that could make it.”
For these would-be astronauts, as part of their first manned mission, eight years of testing and training are required to ensure the applicant is suitable to become one of the 24 Mars-dwellers. The next step for applicants is a medical screening exam and to meet with the Mars One committee.
Subsequently, there will be the physical test. They must show their aptness to survive in inhospitable living conditions and work as a team under those challenging settings. In six teams of four, the groups’ training will be conducted in a replica Mars outpost. There, they will be isolated for months, every two years in groups of four. Each group will represent different nations. With their expertise in the sciences and other fields, they will learn both physical and electrical repairs to settlement structures, confront medical issues, farm in constricted space known as a “plant production unit,” and learn not only how to survive, but thrive. However, it doesn’t come without risk.
To finance this mission is no easy task. If Mars One tackles all possibilities, the expenditure to send the first group of four astronauts to Mars will cost an estimated $6 billion, and $4 billion for each additional biannual trip, according to the nonprofit organization website, MarsOne.
Is this a mission impossible? There are critics of the project. such as former German astronaut Ulrich Walter, who said that the chance to reach Mars alive is only close to 30 percent. To live on the red planet, he estimates that chances on surviving longer than three months are less than 20 percent.
Conversely, one group says it’s very possible. This 60-person Mars RSS workshop planning subcommittee group composed of the aerospace industry, academic and national government agencies, thinks that a mission to Mars is achievable. However, it would require NASA’s budget to be returned to pre-sequestration levels. More than that, it will entail international collaboration and private funding. There is the opportunity for exploration; the question is no longer how, but when.
By: Dawn Levesque