“Get Your Ass to Mars!” in 2023

Posted: July 27, 2012 by Dion in Science Fiction, Technology
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OK, the title may be a tad dramatic, but I thought it was completely appropriate to quote the iconic Schwarzenegger line from 1990’s Total Recall when writing this story. Bas Lansdorp, a thirty-five year old Dutch entrepreneur, has formed a company called Mars One which is sketching out plans to send a crew of ten on a one way mission—yes, you read that right—to the red planet.

He also plans to use a tie-in reality show to help fund the mission. Sci-fi + reality TV= humans on Mars by April 2023? According to Mars One.com, it could work.

The plan is to begin a worldwide lottery next year to select forty people who will then begin training for the mission. Lansdorp told FoxNews.com, that the next step after the lottery would be to set up a colony in an Earth desert, where for three months the group will be isolated and train under conditions similar to what would be found on the red planet. Eventually, this group will be ultimately reduced to ten. Then, in 2023, Mars One plans to start sending teams of four every two years (the trip takes between six to eight months).

If all goes as planned, Mars One hopes to have over twenty people working on Mars by 2033.

Courtesy of Mars One (mars-one.com/en/)

In October 2016, the company will launch the first supply vessel, which will land food and other supplies at a location close to where the outpost is to be set up. Then, in 2018, they will send another ship with a rover. In 2021, all the other components will arrive at the location, including habitat structures, living and life support units, and another rover. The two rovers would then move everything into position to await the astronauts.

So where does reality TV play a role in all of this? Well, Lansdorp hopes to develop a show around the lottery process and the colony training phase, to be shown both on television and online. Heck, this could be the next Survivor, or The Apprentice. Once “history is made” (as the website states) when the first four astronauts are launched on September 14, 2022, every aspect of the mission will be available to view online 24/7.

Sounds crazy up to this point? Well, Mars One has a lot of support in the right places. Paul Romer, the executive producer and co-founder of Big Brother, is an adviser on the project. On the science end of the project, Lansdorp has the support of Nobel Prize winning physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft, who is quoted on Mars One’s site:

Mars One is an extraordinarily daring initiative by people with vision and imagination. This project seems to me to be the only way to fulfill dreams of mankind’s expansion into space.

Space researcher Brian Enke of the Southwest Research Institute is also an adviser, and Prof. Dr. Ir. Boudewijn Ambrosius, the chairman of Astrodynamics and Space Missions at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, is one of the project’s ambassadors.

So why a one-way mission to Mars?

It seems to be more economically feasible to only focus on getting the people there, and not having to worry about the cargo, apparatus, and fuel making a return trip. This theoretically makes the proposal a lot more realistic and possible, and therefore a lot more likely. According to the same Foxnews.com article, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin has maintained for years that the only way to get humans to Mars would be a one-way mission. Lansdorp does explain that, although the initial plan is a one-way ticket, a later trip to retrieve the astronauts could be possible.

Another reason to send humans instead of robots is the cost, both financial and intellectual. It would cost almost the same or more to send robotic technology there, but it seems more realistic and cost-effective at this point to just send humans. Also, there seems to be a six-minute delay with the remote contact from Earth to the machines on the Martian surface, so averting a disaster as small as telling a rover to stop may be as easy as having a technician on site instead of relying on a program to make that determination while it awaits instructions from us, millions of miles away.

As this seems all well and good, it would also be necessary for the people selected to be exhaustively vetted by psychologists and psychiatrists to deal with the “cabin fever” element of the mission. We surely wouldn’t want an Event Horizon scenario playing out up there.

I think this is great news for supporters of space exploration. Since Obama canned NASA’s programs, relegating them to testing Toyota brake pedal malfunctions, it’s good to see companies and dreamers alike with the desire and ambition to attempt to pull all this off. Hopefully (God willing) everything will go as planned and the reality show will become a hit, getting public support behind the mission, much like how Kennedy rallied the nation for the cold war space race of the 1960s.

Then we all can get back into the old dreams of conquering the stars. Before we know it we’ll have that functional Starship Enterprise built in orbit, though I do not know how far that plan will get. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope with all seriousness that this comes to pass.

In the meantime, want to contact Mars One or put your name in the hat to try to get a ride to Mars? Click here. Happy trails!

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