While the NASA Mars rover Curiosity studies the surface of the Red Planet, the Netherlands has launched full-scale preparations for a manned flight to Mars. The Mars One program proposes that the first human settlements will appear on Mars by April 2023.
The first team consisting of four astronauts from various countries that will be selected in 2013 will engage in a seven-month flight from the Earth to Mars. There they will build the first dwellings for the colonists and stay for an indefinite period of time.
Every two years a new team will join the settlement. It is planned that by 2033 the number of Mars dwellers will be over twenty people. The colonists will be primarily engaged in scientific work as well as geological exploration. They all will live and work in autonomous units specifically designed for the expedition to Mars.
The Mars One team started working on its project back in early 2011. The founders of the project – Bas Lansdorp and Arno A. Wielders – are confident that Mars One will definitely pay for itself. Truly, the concept of the mission is interesting: the financing will be raised with the help of a TV reality-show. It is believed that the opportunity to watch the journey and the life of the first Mars settlers will attract a huge number of viewers and the mass media. Bas Lansdorp does not exclude that the first colonist team will include professional astronauts. He points out that what will be especially valuable is the experience of the Russian project Mars-500, during which six volunteers from various countries including an Italian astronaut spent 520 days in an Earth based simulator of a Mars-bound space ship.
The developers of the new project together with numerous specialists and organizations have conducted large-scale research of the feasibility of settlements on Mars. The analysis included not only technical issues, but also financial, psychological, and ethical aspects of the future expedition.
Despite the fact that Mars One is a very costly and risky project, many international aerospace companies that could develop and supply the key equipment components for the expedition to Mars are very interested in the project. Mars One has attracted an impressive list of people who support the mission to Mars. Among them is Gerard ‘t Hooft, a 1999 Nobel Prize winner in physics:
“My first impression of the Mars One project was that it was something absolutely extraordinary. As many people who first hear about it, I thought that the idea of settlements on Mars was not more than a pure fantasy. But having studied the materials given to me, I gradually came to understand that perhaps it was not just somebody’s crazy idea. It is an idea that can in reality be implemented. I believe that the launch of Mars One can become one of the most captivating and impressive media projects ever seen by humankind.”
The fact that the expedition will be a non-political and commercial manned flight only makes it more attractive for equipment suppliers and future sponsors. This is because if the flight does take place and the colony is established, one will be able to talk about an independent state on Mars. In turn that state will be headed by those who sponsor the Mars One project.
Yet who will be able to try their hand at becoming one of the first colonists on Mars? “Anyone who feels that he can manage that task can become a candidate for that job,” says Arno A. Wielders.
Of course, he is being optimistic. Only people with excellent physical and psychological training, good health, high stress-resistance, and conflict-resistance – as well as an education in engineering, mathematics, biology, and medicine – are likely to become Mars colonists. In addition, only people under the age of 35 can apply. In total about 40 astronauts will participate in the project.
Mars One will build a copy of the future Mars settlement that will allegedly be located in the deserts of Gobi and the Sahara. It will prepare the future colonists as the terrain is similar to the Martian desert, as well as taking into account the temperature conditions in order to test the necessary equipment. The selection of the astronauts and their further training will be broadcast on TV and the Internet. In 2013, the first selection of astronauts will take place. Those willing still have a chance to enter their names in the history of the Mars exploration.