For those that don’t know Mars One is an organisation based in the Netherlands who have an audacious plan to send the first people to Mars. The twist in the tail is that to reduce the costs of the mission considerably, they’re not planning to bring them back. A one way ticket to a lifetime on the Red Planet. Who, you might ask, would be mad enough to sign up to spend the rest of their life in what amounts to a number of small sheds in one of the most inhospitable environments it’s possible to imagine? Well since they posted their search for the first Martian astronauts on their web site they have received over 78,000 applicants.
So do they have a chance of achieving their goal? If you believe most of the press then they have roughly the same prospects as the proverbial snowball in the lower reaches of hades. First and foremost there is the problem of finance. The program needs to raise about six billion dollars, although the first parts of the mission could be achieved with about one billion. Currently they’ve raised just over 100,000 on their site through donations.
Then there are the technical issues which are not inconsiderable. With the current technologies available an astronaut on the way to Mars would absorb unsafe levels of radiation although new propulsion technologies could significantly reduce Earth/Mars transit time minimizing radiation exposure. Even so there would still be other potential health hazards such as deterioration of the bones and eyes. Add to this the fact that putting people on Mars is orders of magnitude more difficult than putting them on the moon.
So is this just an insane dream? Yes, but I’d take away the “just”…Most of man’s greatest achievements have happened because someone was willing to have an insane dream. The discovery of America, the first manned flight, the Apollo landings…at the time all of these were on the edge of believable. We need our dreamers, the people who think the unthinkable, they drive us to some of our greatest moments. So whilst I think that the Mars One Team have an uphill struggle at best, I applaud them for their dream and there willingness to encourage us to dream with them.