Mission To Mars
By John D. Adams
What would you sacrifice to be the first human being to live on Mars? Would you give your life? That’s just one of the fascinating questions that Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is asking through his non-profit organization, Earth Mars One.
More than a dream?
With audacious plans to establish a permanent human colony of four on Mars by 2025, Lansdorp says: “Since we started Mars One in March 2011, we received support from scientists, engineers, businessmen and – women and aerospace companies from all over the world. The announcement of our plan in May 2012 resulted in the engagement of the general public, and the support from sponsors and investors. To see our mission evolve this way feels like my dream is becoming a reality.”
For as long as Man has gazed to the heavens, the planet Mars has been an inspired source of curiosity. And unlike our Moon, the “Red Planet,” our nearest planetoid neighbor, has remained tantalizingly out of reach. Until recently. On August 6, 2012, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater. Since then, the world has been captivated by the constant stream of photographs and data that Curiosity has transmitted back to Earth. Recently, the rover drilled into its first rocks. They contained chemical evidence that the place had once been not only water-covered but also habitable! Could Mars once again become habitable? The Mars One organization believes so, and is currently working towards human colonization within the next 11 years.
Thanks to the guidance of accomplished advisers and the endorsement of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft, the Mars One project appears to be much more than just another pipe dream held by so many stargazers over the centuries. Indeed, with feedback from prospective suppliers Mars One has designed a realistic plan utilizing existing technology available through the private space industry. Even more traction was gained in December 2013, when the foundation announced it had secured contracts with Lockheed Martin to develop and study an initial unmanned mission to be launched in 2018. The aerospace and defense giant will study building the lander, while Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., will develop a concept study.
If all goes well and according to timetables by 2018, this settlement rover will explore the terrain of Mars in search of the ideal location for humans to reside. In 2021, additional rovers will transport and assemble six separate units to sustain human life. Two living units, two life support units, another supply unit, and a third rover will all arrive that same year.
And then, in 2025, the first team of four carefully selected applicants will become the first human residents on the Red Planet. The catch? It’s a one-way trip. The biggest “glitch” in the Mars One plan is that whoever signs up and is accepted to participate in this historic event will have to live out the rest of their days on Mars. There simply isn’t the technology or infrastructure to launch a return flight.
Astonishingly, even with this, ahem, hiccup, Mars One received more than 200,000 applications during their initial enrollment period last year. Once this number is whittled down and 24-40 candidates have been fully trained and qualified, the final decision of choosing the first settlers will be decided by a television audience vote. “In 1,000 years, everyone on Earth will still remember who the first humans on Mars were, just like Neil Armstrong has been etched in our memories forever,” said Lansdorp. “This makes the selection of the first crew to a different planet a very important election; in my opinion more important than most elections.” Adds physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft: “‘Big Brother’ will pale in comparison.”
To learn more about Mars One, visit their website at: www.mars-one.com.
It Begins With A Dream
Think the Mars One project is just a dream? Well, dreams can become reality. Just ask one of the biggest names associated with the future of intersteller travel — Elon Musk. While you may not know his name, our entire financial transaction world has been changed by the young genius who made his first fortune merging his innovate online bill pay system into a little something called “PayPal.”
Musk has gone on to found, invest, and oversee Tesla Motors and Space X, two entities that will likely change our concepts of transportation as greatly as PayPal altered the way we spend money. His Tesla Motors has developed and successfully produced the first electric sports car, which obliterates all previous electric car battery lives with a 300-mile charge. “We will run out of oil and we’re engaged in this dangerous experiment of pushing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s crazy.” Musk’s Tesla Model S and Falcon 9 are his first successful steps towards ending that dangerous game.
With NASA’s space shuttle program now mothballed, Musk’s space vehicle and rocket technology company, Space Exploration Technology (SpaceX, for short), is ideally situated to take over the necessary heavy-lifting while ushering in the world of commercial space flight. In 2008, SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 cargo flights of their “Falcon 9” rocket and “Dragon” spacecraft to the International Space Station. Musk considers this just the first step toward future human colonization of other worlds. “The goal of SpaceX has been to advance technology to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars. We have a long way to go and this is really hard work. It’s the most difficult thing humanity has ever done, but also the most interesting and inspiring. If I live 20 years, I think it’ll happen.”
John D. Adams is an award-winning writer and photographer. He lives and works in Charlotte, NC.