As close as 2020, SpaceX rockets may successfully speed on a course to Mars. Two main firms with two distinct approaches are planning ahead for the Mars experience. Telsa Motors, run by CEO Elon Musk is looking to break red ground first in 2020, and establish a colony. He is selling tickets for $500,000. Mars One team is led by Bas Lansdorp, and he is offering free tickets to applicants rather than selling them. Mars One plans to take the first 40 people to Mars in 2024 to establish a colony and prepare for travelers.
Mars One began astronaut selection last year, encouraging all nationalities to apply. At the end of the process six teams of four people will be chosen for training. Each year this process is repeated to replenish the training pool. A comparable Mars habitat is created on Earth for training and to test equipment. In 2018 Mars One plans on launching a communications satellite into Mars orbit that will allow for 24/7 communication. In 2022 two supply units, two living units, and two support systems will be launched to Mars. It will take approximately one year to make the trip. Initial life-support habitation will be set up by robot. This $4 billion effort plans to recuperate its costs by selling the broadcasting rights to the mission. This will make it the most expensive reality show of all time.
Mars One plans to use an upgraded version of the SpaceX rocket to successfully travel onwards to Mars. This is vision in action. The equipment to accomplish the goal has yet to be created. However, the desire and skill is there. In faith that the rockets will be ready, plans have been made to travel to Mars. The Falcon 9 reusable rocket, created by SpaceX, is the key element to the goal of multi-planet habitation. The recent success of the Dragon rocket travelling to the international space station (ISS) has made the dream of inhabiting Mars a plausible reality. The key to success is the reusability of the rocket. Musk has said this factor cuts the cost of space travel by 100 times. This makes a huge difference when calculating the cost of transporting people and equipment.
For those that are interested in humans colonizing Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson has written The Mars Trilogy. Published in 1993, Red Mars, tells the story of the first 100 colonists setting up home in the year 2026. An intelligent and relevant science fiction story, The Mars Trilogy is both entertaining and educational. Each character has a unique perspective on how best to live on Mars and relate back with Earth. How the miniature community deals with complexities of living together in a new environment offers many valuable lessons. This series should be required reading for any of the astronauts working with Mars One and SpaceX. The physical, spiritual, and psychological challenges encountered are real in the context of Mars, and offer poignant lessons for people living everywhere in the solar system. Robinson succeeds in illustrating the scientist as hero for the survival of mankind. He was named a Hero for the Environment by TIME magazine.
Making steps towards bringing this science fiction dream to life, the SpaceX cargo craft, Dragon, returned from the ISS with two tons of old equipment and experiments in tow. So far Dragon is the first ship able to return to Earth without burning up in the atmosphere, and this signals a huge leap towards the massive potential of space. Mars One must celebrate the evolution of the rockets that will one day carry their vision. Success means onward to Mars SpaceX!
Commentary by Grace Pollari