A Dutch company, Mars One, is planning a one way trip to Mars in 2023. Four astronauts will embark on a one way mission to the Red Planet where they will establish a human settlement. The plan is to send an additional four people to join them every two years. The seven-month voyage will cost six billion dollars for the first settlers.
Is this possible?
Mars One has developed a plan that they believe is simple enough to be carried out over the next ten years. Instead of toying with new technological advancements to modify the atmosphere on mars or use nuclear energy, Mars One plans to stick with what they know works which is why their components will come only from existing suppliers.
Solar panels will power the colony. Such a simple energy source is made possible since fuel production will not be required for a return trip. They will use about 3,000 square meters of thin film solar panels that will be placed on the ground.
A total of 2,5000 kg of tinned food will be sent to Mars, but once there, the settlers will have to grow much of their food using a soil-free method called hydroponics.
How will this even work?
The mission will feature a launcher and a lander built by SpaceX. The lander will consist of different units necessary for life on Mars. The life support unit will be responsible for generating energy, water, and breathable air, the supply unit will carry food, and the living unit will contain an inflatable section that will house these settlers after landing.
Mars One, as well as the individuals who will occupy Mars, will have to face some challenges. While Mars One expresses that their main concern is financing for this groundbreaking mission, one must also keep in mind the difficulties these astronauts will encounter. There could be an accident during launch along with other malfunctions throughout the journey. The journey itself will last seven months, where they will reside in close quarters with one another without showering and experiencing many harsh sounds caused by the transportation process. They may even encounter issues while entering Mars’ atmosphere as well as landing on its surface.
Although solar power may be most effective for these astronauts, at night, their inflatable colony must run on battery power and during a dust storm the solar panels will produce less energy, and cause dust build up that will be brushed off by the rover if necessary.
Communication to earth will be possible via satellite and we will receive images of their daily life on Mars. However, all communication will possess a three to 22 minute delay. Therefore, should something go wrong, not only would we not hear about it for up to 22 minutes, but the fastest means of transportation wouldn’t reach them until about six months later.
Mars One has anticipated many possible issues and implemented energy saving techniques. Should something go wrong, the astronauts will have enough water stored for 15 to 150 days, depending on usage. Oxygen will be contained to provide enough for up to 60 days, and extra safety initiatives will be in place to provide power protection.
Next year, Mars One will hold a lottery to begin the selection process for the first team of four. One requirement, according to the Mars One website: “They must be extraordinary.” The astronauts will endure much physical and medical training, as well as partake in simulation missions.
The goal is for the astronauts to stay on Mars for the rest of their lives while establishing a working, flourishing colony. Once they depart, there is no saying when or if they will ever return. ■