No human has walked the Moon since 1972, and no one has ever traveled as far as Mars. But Dutch company Mars One plans to change all that in just 10 years time, by sending groups of colonists to the Red Planet and leaving them there for the rest of their lives. The first group of four astronauts will leave Earth in 2022 and theoretically arrive on Mars the following year, when they will start growing their permanent colony. Every two years after that new groups will be making the seven-month journey never to return again. The project has been received with a lot of skepticism from the science world, with many experts expressing doubts about its success due to a series of major drawbacks, including the inability to return to Earth, the lack of food on the barren planet, the atmosphere that consists mainly of carbon dioxide, a temperature of -55 degrees Celsius, the radiation endured during the trip and the risky landing. But Mars One has the backing of renowned physicist and Nobel Prize winner Gerard’t Hooft, as well as the support of major aerospace companies around the world, who have agreed to supply all the equipment necessary for the mission.
Transporting just one crew of human settlers to Mars is a very expensive affair. Sending the Curiosity rover to the distant planet cost NASA $2.5 billion, but Mars One’s missions are expected to cost around $56 billion. That’s a lot of money, wouldn’t you say? So how do they plan to get the funding for this bold endeavor? Two words: “reality show”. According to company founder Bas Landsdorp everyone on Earth will want to see the historic arrival of humans on Mars and will continue to tune in every day to see how they’re fairing on the Red Planet. “It sounds like a lot of money. And actually it is a lot of money. But imagine what will happen when the first people land on Mars. Literally everybody on the globe will want to see it,” Landsdorp said at a recent news conference in New York. Gerard’t Hooft agrees with him and says this original reality show will make Big Brother pale in comparison. The best part is no governments or political organization will be involved in the Mars One project, and no tax payers money will be used for financing.
The Mars One company has already begun scouting for volunteer colonists, and has so far received over 10,000 requests from people in 100 different countries willing to leave Earth for good. In all they are seeking six groups of four people each. According to the project’s medical director Norbert Kraft, the key attributes for applicants are being adaptable, resilient, creative and having empathy. Requirements also include strong health, great survival skills, reasonable knowledge of the English language and a minimum age of 18. Many have had questions about the ethical aspect of sending people on a one-way trip to Mars, but company’s representatives say they are within moral guidelines.
Mars One plans to create the biggest media event in history to finance their missions. Everyone will be able to watch the preparations for the departure, the long voyage and hopefully the colonists’ lives on Mars. In 2016 Mars One will launch a communications satellite and a supply mission to the Red Planet. Two years later, a large planetary rover will also make the trip and scout the planet for the best location for the settlement. In 2020, living units, life support units, a second rover and supplies will be sent to Mars. The rovers will begin preparing the living units for human arrival, and in September 2022, when the colony is fully operational, the first human crew will depart in a transit habitat with a lander attached to it. In April of 2023, after a seven-month journey, the humans will arrive on Mars – “the next giant leap for man kind” Landsdorp says confidently.