Mars One Takes Next Step in Colonizing Red Planet

Mars One Takes Next Step in Colonizing Red Planet

Human settlement on Mars is a realistic possibility as the Mars One organization has developed a program to send 24 people from around the world on a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders founded the Mars One program, a Netherlands-based nonprofit group, in 2011 with the purpose of beginning a successful mission to colonize Mars. There were over 200,000 applicants for the mission, but the Mars One selection committee has slimmed that number down to 100 candidates for the 24 available positions. The candidates chosen will prepare and train themselves for the journey over the next ten years. The 24 crew members will be separated into six groups of four, and the first crew is currently planning for launch in 2026.

The crew selection process has begun years before the first launch in order to allow candidates to train and prepare themselves for the mission. The current 100 candidates understand that if they are chosen for the mission, they will not come back. The mission is to send the crew to Earth’s neighboring planet so they can colonize; there is no return trip.

A large issue for the program, however, is its funding for the mission. The technology and robotics required to ensure safety and a successful launch is estimated to cost around six billion dollars.

“Our six billion dollar cost figure comes from good discussions that we have had with established aerospace companies from around the world,” said Lansdorp in an interview responding to criticism of the mission. “They have already been building systems for the International Space Station and for unmanned missions to Mars, which are similar to the ones we need. We are very confident that our budget will be enough.”

The Mars One program has received criticism, however, regarding the safety of the mission’s crew members. When discussing the safety of the astronauts, one must consider the possibility of an accident during launch, malfunctions on the journey, and landing in Mars’ atmosphere.

To ensure the mission’s safety, Mars One will conduct dozens of test launches before the real thing. By the time of the first launch, the astronauts will have been trained to deal with various situations while on their way to Mars. The program also feels comfortable with the crew’s landing since they will have already successfully sent eight unmanned capsules.

“Mars One has not given me any reason to believe that our safety is not a chief concern, and if at a later time point I feel that human health or safety is being neglected, I would certainly remove myself from the program,” said Mars One finalist Laure1 Kaye to The Chronicle of Duke University.

Kaye went on to say that she does not believe this mission can be a failure. “If one fifth grade girl is inspired to go into science because she sees that people are trying to get humans to Mars, then that is a success in my mind.”

While Kaye believes the mission cannot fail, there is skepticism even here at Woodgrove about the Mars One mission. Chemistry teacher Mr. Spicer thinks that colonizing Mars is a good idea since Earth is becoming more and more populated, but he’s not sure if the crew members will have what it takes to survive.

“The astronauts will have to be able to self-sustain once they get there,” said Spicer, “so they would need to be able to function on their own and be prepared for anything.” Spicer also thinks that humans are currently lacking the technology necessary to launch a successful mission.

Others at Woodgrove, including sophomore Robert Grady, are worried about the ethical aspect of the mission and don’t believe the mission is worth the time and money spent.

“Why would we go to Mars when we have Earth?” said Grady. “We don’t need to ruin another planet.”

Grady thinks the idea of colonizing Mars is unrealistic and unnecessary. Others, however, disagree with Grady’s viewpoint and think the Mars One mission is a great opportunity for mankind.

“I think it is definitely worthwhile and revolutionary,” said junior Emma Renner. “It’s an exciting, huge first step of space colonization, and I wish I was part of the mission.”

It is from this perspective that Lansdorp and Wielders founded the Mars One program: to broaden our knowledge of space and open up possibilities for our species in the distant future. While Earth is clearly more suitable for human life, there could come a time when it becomes unsuitable due to population increase, pollution, climate change, or whatever it may be.