Forty-four years have passed since the moon landing in 1969. Much has happened since. Last year saw huge enthusiasm for the NASA Mars Rover mission and if private enterprise has its way, humanity will have an outpost on Mars by 2023. Mars One is positioning itself to be the next logical step in our exploration of other planets. The search for applicants has already begun, and thousands of people have already submitted a $25 fee for said application to book a flight to the Red Planet. The fee is meant to filter applicants who are not serious. The mission is no pleasure cruise. Mars is the final destination and accepted applicants will be faced with living out the remainder of their lives on another planet, in addition to a commitment of several years to the training required to undertake such a mission.
Mankind has always looked to the heavens for answers to life’s most difficult questions but now we are preparing to take the great leap to become part of the heavens themselves. Our ability to maneuver in space improves with every year. Four days ago, three new astronauts docked at the International Space Station after a six hour flight, cutting down the average flight time of 48 hours using a new method. Improvements and innovations happen with each technological advancement that is made.
Mars One, a nonprofit group entirely funded by private companies, is based out of the Netherlands and proposes sending 24 people in six teams of four to Mars beginning in 2023. The final 24 are to be chosen by July 2015, after which each applicant will begin seven years of mission training and 3-month cycles of replica colony life. All of the applicants are not expected to succeed. In 2015, the process of elimination will begin to narrow the colonists down to 12. Each colonist will be subjected to very high stress scenarios and the Mars One project expects to have replacement crew members in cycles of training even after 2023, for as long as the funding for this project allows.
Private companies funding space exploration will allow the mission to operate without the encumbrance of politics and public funding from taxpayers. This liberty will be reflected in everything from the application process to the final details of the mission. It is a bold vision undertaken by earnest supporters of space exploration across nations. The Mars One mission is poised to redefine humanity and our capacity for curiosity. Critics of the project cite liability issues that lie in the fact that members of this mission voluntarily give up their lives to the undertaking.
The journey to Mars will be a 210-day flight (though the space craft has not yet been designed to accommodate such an extensive travel time), the colony will have an initial population of four and will house rovers, greenhouses, two habitats, two life support landers, and two supply landers.
Regardless of criticism, Mars One represents a bold vision of space exploration. There are talks that elements of the program will be introduced to the public for viewing as part of a reality-type television show to improve the funding for Mars One and to give the world an opportunity to engage in this bold human endeavor. Space exploration is a great equalizer. Across culture, language, gender, and political affiliation, people come together to make a path to the heavens. We chose to go to the moon “not because it is easy, but because it is hard”. Even so, our motivation during Cold War America was different than that which drives the Mars One program. Anyone can apply and few will be chosen.
Is it you?