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Mission to Mars meets reality TV

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June 4, 2012

Dutch company Mars One is planning an extremely ambitious way to land mankind on Mars and ...

Dutch company Mars One is planning an extremely ambitious way to land mankind on Mars and keep us there: a reality TV show (Image: Mars One)

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The first people to colonize Mars might be reality TV show contestants. No, this is not a joke - it's a tremendously ambitious, eyebrow-raising plan devised by Dutch company Mars One. Next year, the company aims to select several teams of four astronauts each, and the public will be the final judge as to which team will get the ticket for a (one-way!) seven-month trip to the Red Planet in 2023.

Compared to the more traditional manned missions, "Mars to stay" missions have the obvious advantage of requiring much lower costs and dealing with highly simplified logistics. And simplicity seems to be the driving force behind the Mars One proposal, as the organizers say the whole thing can be achieved using already existing technology, choosing suppliers on the basis of price and quality rather than political or national preferences, like other agencies may do.

Still, it's obviously pretty hard to believe in the feasibility of such an expedition, especially in such a short timeframe. We spoke with Bas Lansdorp, one of the minds behind the project, to find out more on the financial details of the operation.

"We discussed the cost figures of the components with our potential suppliers. We included margins, setbacks and failures in the financial plan to make it as realistic as possible," says Lansdorp. "Our challenge is that the bills of our suppliers will come before we generate such large income. For now, we especially require the funds to have our suppliers perform conceptual design studies. After these studies, the technical feasibility will be even more clear than it is now."

Sketch of the Mars One settlement. The company worked at this project in secret since Janu...

According to Lansdorp, adopting only tried-and-true technologies - instead of brand-new developments that would require a lot of expensive research and testing - will allow to keep costs down to about US$6 billion to settle the first four astronauts into their new extraterrestrial homes. By contrast, the total cost of the Mars Science Laboratory, which is scheduled to land on the Martian surface in just over two months, is in the range of $US 2.5 billion.

But how can a reality show expect to raise six billion dollars? The short answer - by attempting to create the biggest media event ever.

"To attract sponsors, we will create appealing media content around the selection of the astronauts, the training, unmanned missions and other topics," says Lansdorp. "This should convince sponsors and investors to participate with the promise of an even bigger exposure later: we expect that almost every person on Earth will witness the landing of the first astronauts on Mars."

"Their departure from Earth, the journey to Mars and the first months on Mars will also attract a very large audience. After that, many people will tune in a couple of times per week to see how 'our people on Mars' are doing - a reality show that never ends."

Among Mars One's backers is Paul Römer, the co-creator of the reality TV show "Big Brother."

Here's a summary of how Mars One sees the scenario playing out (and some of the many challenges):

The astronaut selection process

The candidates will be tested on a replica of their living quarters, and they will only be...

Next year, Mars One will start considering applications from wannabe-cosmonauts all around the world, regardless of their country of origin. Those selected will then be placed in groups of four, and put through a rigid ten-year training program that will familiarize them with the equipment and teach them to deal with medical emergencies.

The training will also involve each group being placed in a simulation of the settlement in a cold, dry Earth environment (Lansdorp told us that the exact placement is yet to be determined) to see how they can cope with their very unique living situation.

The candidates will only be allowed to leave the base when wearing their space suits, they will have to cultivate their own food and all communications with the outside world will be artificially delayed by twenty minutes to simulate the conditions they would be facing on Mars.

Food, water and supplies

A total of 2,500 kg (5,500 lbs) of tinned food will be sent by the settlement before the a...

All the necessary supplies will be delivered in advance, and should be already in place when the four astronauts leave for their journey. Food, water and supplies will be delivered by eight unmanned expeditions, including two remotely controlled rovers that will aid in assembling the living quarters.

"The inflatable living units are 100 square meters each. There will be bedrooms, a living and dining room, working area and plant growth area," says Lansdorp. Eventually, the astronauts would be able to construct additional buildings with a brick-making machine and seal them to maintain adequate pressure and oxygenation levels.

The entire settlement will be powered by solar panels. Even though Mars receives only a fraction of the solar radiation the Earth does, its thinner atmosphere partly compensates for this, at it allows for more of that energy to filter through.

While solar power might be safer than a small nuclear reactor, the dust accumulating on the panels will have to be periodically removed, either by hand or by the on-site rovers.

As the "settlers" start cultivating their own crops, they will increasingly become more self-sufficient from Earth, which will decrease the per-year cost of the operation. Every two years, a further group of four will arrive and join the settlement, expanding capabilities and allowing the start more research, including the search for life on the planet.

The long trip to an alien planet

A trip to Mars via the Hohmann Transfer Orbit - the most convenient path for a spacecraft to travel between planets - would take six to eight months. During that time, the astronauts would be confined to a very limited space, exposed to more than twice the level of radiation that astronauts on the International Space Station have to cope with, and developing a high risk of osteoporosis caused by the absence of gravity.

Regarding osteoporosis, Mars One is confident that it can learn lessons from the ISS, citing the case of American astronaut Shannon Lucid, who lived in the MIR space station for 188 days and was in excellent physical condition once she returned to Earth. Mars One hopes that developments in osteoporosis medication and a very generous dose of exercise will help limit the effects of zero gravity, which should subside once the astronauts land on the planet.

Radiation could be a more serious issue. Mars One says that bursts of radiation from the sun come with a fair warning, which would allow the astronauts to take shelter under the radiation-proof section of the rocket for as long as several days. They won't be sheltered, however, from the background radiation for the entire duration of their trip, and there simply is no telling what the effects of such an exposure could be.

During the entire trip, showering won't be an option; instead, the astronauts will have to make do with wet wipes. Tinned food only, constant noise from the ventilators and equipment and a regimented routine of thee hours of exercise a day will add to their trials and tribulations.

As far as the psychological health of the astronauts, other projects such as Mars 500, in which six volunteers spent 17 months in isolation, have shown that this should not be an issue throughout the trip. The Mars 500 experiment, however, could not simulate the high-radiation, zero-gravity conditions that the Mars One astronauts would be facing.

As far as the rocket itself, Mars One offers some security in that it says it will use only well-established technology that is already in production. And, somewhat reassuringly, the landing sequence will already have been successfully performed eight times by identical, unmanned capsules by the time the astronauts attempt to land on the planet in 2023.

Settling on Mars

Once they have landed on the Martian surface, rovers will pick up the astronauts and bring them to the living quarters. Each astronaut will have a personal space of about 50 square meters (ca. 500 square feet), a welcome change from the harsh conditions during the trip to the planet.

Then, the astronauts will be busy performing two main tasks: construction and research. They will work on expanding their base, partly with the help of a brick-making machine that will allow them to construct new buildings. They could construct a space as big as 10 meters high, wide, and 50 meters long, to cultivate trees and bamboo for future projects.

Within the settlement, inflatable components will contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a plant production unit to grow their own food. They will be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food in the kitchen, wear regular clothes. All Units will be connected by passageways, so that the astronauts can move freely from one end of the base to the other.

There will also be two rovers, each with a range of 80 km (50 miles), allowing for more exploration and research in the area surrounding the settlement.

Waiting for backup

The first function rovers will be to explore the area and select the best site for the set...

Every two years, a group of four more astronauts is scheduled to land near the base and expand the settlement, bringing new supplies and progressively making the community more autonomous from Earth. Mars One says it will continue to send at least four new members every two years, until the population becomes 40 strong.

Then, Mars One speculates, if everything is going according to plan, a new village might be created at a different location on Mars. Eventually, in the distant future, the local population might reach the numbers necessary to build its own rocket and allow some of the astronauts to come back to Earth, if they so wished.

Living on Mars: A risky business

Living on Mars is, not surprisingly, likely to be a very risky endeavor - particularly during the first few years in which only a handful of people will be on site to deal with any problems that might arise. Even after a community of tens of people has been established, there are many things that could go wrong: an essential component of the settlement could break down, an astronaut might not survive if his or her space suit were to become seriously damaged, and many medical conditions would simply become untreatable without the right equipment.

"Living on Mars is comparable to getting by on Antarctica, and provides similar challenges," the Mars One website reads. "However, the South Pole now has a number of very advanced, large research stations that boast a great deal of modern facilities that provide a good quality of life. These looked very different 50 years ago. The Mars settlement will develop in the same way."

In Antartica, however, the gravity is not 38 percent of what we're accustomed to, and since we've only had a chance to study how the human body reacts to long exposures to either normal gravity or zero gravity (on the ISS), the effects of this "semi-gravity" are unknown. Robert Zubrin, another proponent of Mars settlement, states that the effects of long-term low gravity would include humans growing taller and developing a much weaker muscular mass over the years.

If this is true, the first Martian baby would have a very hard time if he or she was ever to come back to Earth - feeling twice as heavy and without the necessary power in the limbs to move about. But is not something we need to worry about in the near future, as high-radiation and low-gravity environments act as one big birth control system, decreasing sperm count.

A much more pressing problem is on-site radiation. Mars One says the astronauts will be partially protected by submerging the living units with a few feet of sand, and, in the case of sudden bursts coming from the Sun (which can be much more harmful), they will have ample warning and will be able to return to the base in time.

Mars One stresses that the levels of radiation will be less than that experienced by astronauts in the International Space Station: it should be pointed out, however, that while ISS astronauts only remain exposed for a few months at a time, the Mars astronauts would be living the rest of their lives on the planet, exposed to a much higher level of danger.

Mars One's "roadmap"
  • 2013: The astronaut selection process will begin. Mars One will build a replica of the settlement on an Earth desert to help the astronauts prepare and train, and for a realistic environment in which to test the equipment. The astronaut selection and the preparations in the simulated Mars base will be broadcast on television and online for the public to view and select the final four.
  • 2014: Start of the preparations for the supplies mission (due to launch in 2016) and for the first Mars communications satellite.
  • 2016: The supply mission will be launched for Mars in January 2016 and will land on the Red Planet in October 2016 with its cargo of 2,500 kilograms (5,500 lbs) of food.
  • 2018: A robotic exploration vehicle will land on Mars to join the supply Lander. This rover's task is to travel around the planet to determine the most favorable location for the settlement.
  • 2021: All the parts and features of the settlement reach their destination: two living units, two life support units, a second supplies unit and another rover. The two rovers take all components to the settlement location and prepare for the arrival of the astronauts.
  • 2022: All water, oxygen and atmosphere production will be ready. The Earth crew gets a go-ahead for the launch. Each component of the Mars transit vehicle is launched into a low orbit, and linked together. On September 14, 2022 the first four astronauts are begin their journey.
  • 2023: The astronauts land on Mars. They are picked up by the rovers, and link the other landers together. They set up the remaining solar panels, and begin their exploration. They will also research Mars’ history and any possible past life it hosted, as well as looking into present matters of interest, discovering, for instance, how Earth plants behave on Mars.
  • 2025: The second group lands. They are received by their planet-mates, who have completed the construction of their living habitats in which both groups take up residence. The second group have also brought new hardware with them, opening up even more possibilities for research.

The video below explains some of the steps involved in building the settlement, that, Lansdorp told us, will likely be in Utopia Planitia, a few hundred kilometers to the North West of the Viking 2 lander.

Source: Mars One

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion.   All articles by Dario Borghino
43 Comments

Riight!

No doubt they'll have to supply all the astronauts with suicide capsules, seeing as it's a one way trip and they'll have limited medical facilities. I don't believe the project has a chance for a minute.

Now if they could do the stages up to 2018 cheaply, they might get NASA to pay for it, a la SpaceX.

A return exploration mission to the moon might be more credible and useful.

Wombat56
4th June, 2012 @ 11:05 pm PDT

This is a great idea! Big Brother Mars crossed with Survivor Mars.

When a contestant gets kicked out of the house, they really get kicked out of the house plus as an extra bonus, the freaks selected never come back.

It will also increase the average IQ on both planets (just slightly but every bit counts). TV ratings gold!

Bruce Watkins
4th June, 2012 @ 11:30 pm PDT

Great funding idea, having Fox or NBC foot the bill for a mission to Mars.

Jason Hiser
4th June, 2012 @ 11:34 pm PDT

Finally a reality TV show worth watching.

Facebook User
5th June, 2012 @ 01:42 am PDT

I think that the idea is plausible. What I'm wondering is that they say astronauts but do not specify the gender distribution. It seams to me that sending 4 men only to the Mars is not very sustainable.

Kris Lee
5th June, 2012 @ 02:45 am PDT

This looks like an INSANE project!

Ok, the rockets and the habitats will be no problem, but the **people** will be.

Astronauts from a "reality show", selected by the **public?** You have got to be kidding!

This is doomed to fail. The so-called "astronauts" will never be able to put up with the training. Even if they miraculously get through that, they would go insane and kill each other on the way to Mars.

I see that among Mars One's backers is the co-creator of a "reality TV" show. That says it all. Never mind what happens to these people - it's all about "ratings".

mooseman
5th June, 2012 @ 03:06 am PDT

@mooseman I understand your concerns. Mine are quite the same. But you do not have to leave the desition to the viewers - you can always make a preselection so that all the participants are physically and mentaly capable.

I actually find that this idea is quite clever way to put the stupid money into good use.

Kris Lee
5th June, 2012 @ 06:37 am PDT

Can we PLEASE send the entire cast of "Jersey Shore" first?

Chuck Anziulewicz
5th June, 2012 @ 06:41 am PDT

That's a lot of money to spend on a show that may be cancelled after two episodes.

Robert Bigger
5th June, 2012 @ 07:28 am PDT

10 years of training, plus another 10 years, is a lot to ask of the people not to have relations, specifically children, unless they have accounted for that lol.

Miks Stiefel
5th June, 2012 @ 01:17 pm PDT

@Kris, " It seams to me that sending 4 men only to the Mars is not very sustainable."

Wouldn't that be Big Brother, Survivor Mars, and Queer eye for the Straight guy, mixed?

Topped off with Darwin Awards for the entire cast when the ratings drop in the second season. They are depending on the landed folks to produce their own rocket if they want to return? Are they nuts? Try to make a hammer without tools in the first place! I dare you to even try. To even produce a blacksmith's forge from a natural mountainside and an idea of what you want it to be? You will spend the first year just trying to produce tools, good enough to make better tools! Why not spend that money on a contest to design and build the best farming equipment, and seeing what team can feed the most people with the least cost, and the best return? Maybe even "Flip This Farm" Take farmers who are barely making ends meet, and renovate their farms and techniques for the best efficiency, without them losing their family lands to another shopping mall, or development.

kellory
5th June, 2012 @ 02:06 pm PDT

@kellory As far I understand they send the first crew there and to just hang around there. They can fabricate some bricks and foil (with some machinery sent there) and use that to create some additional buildings (I actually do not have any idea how they plan to roof those buildings).

Then they send more people in and then maybe even more. All with one way ticket. When you think about it then it would be not that different from living on Earth in the small village in medieval times.

When technology does advance then some of them can even be able to travel back to Earth when they want to. They do not have to build a hammer from the Mars rock for that.

Instead prefabricated modules can be transported there plus the machinery to make the fuel from the Mars material.

Kris Lee
5th June, 2012 @ 03:56 pm PDT

It sounds like most people believe this is a CRAZY idea...that, therefore, increases the odds for success.

Chuck Franke
5th June, 2012 @ 05:01 pm PDT

I suspect this is yet another scheme to separate the Taxpayer from his/her everdwindling money. First, the funding, if available could be better spent taking care of seniors, ifrastructure, paying down the national debt, ect. If anyone wants to pay for this, it should be volintary.

Burnerjack
5th June, 2012 @ 05:22 pm PDT

It all looks that it will be a big success until 2016, when they will shut down the project for lack of funding.

So they got a great reality show for the next 4 years, spending only on one house in a desert environment. I will not bother with this until they start actually launching missions to mars. Sorry.

cachurro
5th June, 2012 @ 06:24 pm PDT

@kellory

Why not spend that money on a contest to design and build the best farming equipment, and seeing what team can feed the most people with the least cost, and the best return? Maybe even "Flip This Farm" Take farmers who are barely making ends meet, and renovate their farms and techniques for the best efficiency, without them losing their family lands to another shopping mall, or development.

That is genius. Seriously.

As far as Mars realiTV, I'd watch it!

Ahura
5th June, 2012 @ 06:38 pm PDT

While I think the basic idea is somewhat flawed, the concept is at least one way to start getting people to Mars.

Try reading Robert Zubrin’s book “A Case for Mars”. It details how to “Live off the land” on Mars and how to be able to return the people to earth. Yes, they are able to make their own rocket fuel. If you send the correct equipment in the first place, it’ll be there to help the people there.

As for where to place the test area on earth. Check out the “Mars Underground”, I understand that they have set up a simulated living module somewhere in Northern Canada in, or very close to, the arctic circle. They should have some very useful suggestions on how to do this.

JMOdom
5th June, 2012 @ 07:02 pm PDT

@kris following mooseman's comment. I believe you are right. From what I gather, Mars One will choose a large group of suitable candidates and for a certain period of time have them just mix. From there, they will be able to make teams and start the public picking. As was mentioned in the article, the contestants must be able to tough through every challenge. Besides, what would be the point of sending uneducated, unable people in a hostile environment; they must be able to perform research.

Also, many have commented, saying that the astronauts would be lacking materials and tools. Sure, in the first year or so they might, but there are scheduled supply missions, so as the astronauts gather data on the materials available, the earth based team will be able to send tools needed to process these and further advance the developments. Furthermore, if all goes well, space industry companies around the world will see the results and in the light of massive visibility and assured positive results, may invest more into the project, making more tools available to the astronauts.

I am of course still a little sceptical, for lack of detailed project plans, yet the basic idea seems excellent. If we are to expand in space as a species, we must take risks and the way most people react to these kind of projects, you'd think we have to wait for complete world peace, perfect economy and thorough knowledge of the entire galaxy..

The best thing about this though, I believe, is the fact that it is fully private funded, but I do sort of agree that maybe we should start by the moon.

Patrick Chartier
5th June, 2012 @ 07:50 pm PDT

The solar flar radiation is not a problem on Mars. The atmosphere while not thick is deep enough to block it. The cosmic ray dose should be about 3 x tibetan doses; much less than the luna doses. Many high altitude cities have relativily high levels of cosmic ray fluxes. There seem to be no long term medical effects that we can't fix. Half a meter of dirt on the roof will reduce it to denver colarado levels which is deemed to be safe. Contraceptives will therefore be needed and they will need a lab on a chip to make pharmacutials.

I don't think it will be a one way trip or take months to get there. By the end of phase one, crew selection and training, either Vasimer or Hiiper will be available to take them there in a month. An unmanned cycler station and on Mars fuel plant would get them home.

Wesley Bruce
6th June, 2012 @ 03:49 am PDT

This is an interesting approach. It would be very similar to the colonization of the Americas. Personally I still prefer the idea espoused by the spaceislandgroup even if they haven't really gotten off the ground. The concept calls for big and slow instead of small and fast. They proposed a ring habitat based on the SSMT which the death of the shuttle program has rendered infeasible but using SpaceX launchers and Bigelow Aerospace habitat modules a similar vehicle could be constructed. By sending a fully functional habitat with one hundred people that takes three years to reach Mars the likelihood of permanent settlement becomes more likely. This orbiting base station would serve as an Ellis Island for Mars. Then using fast supply vehicles that do not have the unneeded weight of reentry engines and shielding for round trip resupply and transfer of mined minerals would improve conditions and speed development.

VirtualGathis
6th June, 2012 @ 04:55 am PDT

Why Mars? What is the point? What is on Mars that I'm unaware of? This is a publicity stunt for sure. You'd have to be insane to actually want to go.

livin_the_dream
6th June, 2012 @ 05:26 am PDT

Certain death & living indoors for the rest of your life. Any volunteers?

p.s. - they forgot the rover that autonomously brings back ice blocks from the poles for use in the settlement. Got to be cheaper than sending water to them.

Maybe some 70+ ex scientists who have no family left would like to go. As a place to live Mars would totally suck.

Anthony Collett
6th June, 2012 @ 10:44 am PDT

re; livin_the_dream

The people who brave the frontier are not understood by most the people they leave behind. Crazy there the ones who keep planting their faces at the sight of the nobility.

Slowburn
6th June, 2012 @ 11:13 am PDT

2023: that's only 11 years away. That's NOTHING and there's NO WAY,in that short space of time they would have enough time or resources to even BEGIN to build the mission. It's a HUGE undertaking. What protection is offered these "astronauts" from the elements? A little metal space capsule that will be crushed by the first meteor that hits it?

Don't forget- they don't burn up in the atmosphere like earth meteors. Then there's the ever-present dust storms that are more massive and wild than ANYTHING we have ever experienced on this planet. Oh. Not to mention the tornadoes etc.etc.etc. You can't prepare people on earth for a mission to Mars. Those people will need to have had stringent military training and be prepared to die. This is a suicide mission.

paulgo
6th June, 2012 @ 10:13 pm PDT

re: Anthony Collett

I'm afraid "Crazy there the ones who keep planting their faces at the sight of the nobility. " has been lost in translation!

Regardless, there is nothing on the rock. I'm not against space exploration, I wish I could go, just think this is a naff idea.

livin_the_dream
7th June, 2012 @ 02:07 am PDT

re; Anthony Collett

I volunteer.

.........................................................................................................................

re; livin_the_dream

I have ancestors that left the estate, snuck across borders, took a tiny leaky boat across the big angry ocean, trekked across desolate wastelands and mountains and braved hostile natives for a chance of freedom rather than stay safely a slave... I mean serf.

.........................................................................................................................

re; paulgo

How much equipment do you think it is necessary to bring? A dozen Falcon heavy launches (or the equivalent) could be enough assuming you are going to live off the land rather than have every breath of air, every drop of water, every bite of food, and bit of habitat brought from earth.

Martian dust storms pale in significance when compared to sand storms. Martian winds might be fast but they are awfully thin.

Slowburn
7th June, 2012 @ 02:12 pm PDT

I guess I would question the roadmap from a logistical standpoint. The first supply of food will land on the planet on 2016? And then the recon rover will arrive to determine where to set the camp up? Wouldn't it make more sense to find a location first, and then start bringing in supplies? This seems like a planning error, which makes me wonder about the other thought that hashas not gone into this venture.

wurldkup
7th June, 2012 @ 04:25 pm PDT

more re; paulgo

There is a difference between a suicide mission and a mission that lasts a lifetime. This is the latter. The hope is to die of old age.

Slowburn
7th June, 2012 @ 06:25 pm PDT

Some parts of this plan remind me of the crazier ideas for getting to the Moon back in the 60s. There was even a plan to just drop a big nuke on the near side, so it would be visible from Earth, just to prove they could. Then they swapped out the nuke for three astronauts, and the rest is history.

My point is that a lot of this is going to make more sense in hindsight.

AngryPenguin
8th June, 2012 @ 06:59 am PDT

@Kris Lee, "Every two years, a group of four more astronauts is scheduled to land near the base and expand the settlement, bringing new supplies and progressively making the community more autonomous from Earth. Mars One says it will continue to send at least four new members every two years, until the population becomes 40 strong.

Then, Mars One speculates, if everything is going according to plan, a new village might be created at a different location on Mars. Eventually, in the distant future, the local population might reach the numbers necessary to build its own rocket and allow some of the astronauts to come back to Earth, if they so wished."

Even if we spent the extra money in fuel to send component pieces and a full tool kit, complete with exploded diagrams and explicit directions, over a series of years, Hell will freeze over before Big Brother Mars contestants could build it, fuel it, and fly it home, land it, and survive it. So Yes, they might as well be making a hammer from sand.

As for roofing the brick building, that is simple. Simply set bricks as blocks of ice are used in an igloo. The walls ARE the roof.

kellory
8th June, 2012 @ 09:34 pm PDT

I am seeing WAAAAAY to many negative responses to this suggestion. While it may need a lot more thought put into it, the basic concept is good.

To paraphrase something I read a long time ago; “Pioneering is finding new ways to die.” Now on the surface that statement is a bit negative. If you look at history you will see that large population groups picked up stakes and left where they were to find new homes. This started when mankind started to leave Africa and not just the movement from Europe to the Americas. These people would be true pioneers. They braved hostile environments, animals, and other human tribes that didn’t want them there or passing through their territory. Moving from their home planet to another to begin a new life there. You would have way more freedom to expand your knowledge and abilities than you do here on Earth.

Mars is covered with Iron Oxide, which makes the planet appear red. Iron Oxide is basically unrefined steel. There are ways to start somewhat small and make bigger and bigger tools. Some of the machines can also be used to make fuel for the rovers and Oxygen to breath. And I am talking about very simple machines with few, if any moving parts. If you look at my earlier comment you will find a book listed. Read it and discover a way to “live off the land.”

As for growing their own food.

Take seeds along with to be grown in either hydroponic trays of directly in the Martian soil. If you take fertilized frozen fish eggs, then you could set up a set of tanks to raise the fish in and use the water from the tanks to irrigate your vegetables. And before anyone wants to complain about the idea, it is being done here on Earth at this time.

If I was young enough to go I’d leap at the chance. As for the negative people, If everyone listened to you and your negative attitude we would still be living in caves and hunting meat with clubs.

JMOdom
9th June, 2012 @ 06:05 pm PDT

JMOdom, every one of you pioneers could breath if they made a mistake, or just gave up. In this case, failure does not mean death is possible. It means death is assured. Why not try this project on the ocean floor first, before we complicate it even further. At least on the sea floor, oxygen and hydrogen could be split from seawater, food is available if the shuttle is late, and help is not out of the question if the need arises. Maybe iron out a few bugs before taking the concept to another world.

kellory
11th June, 2012 @ 05:30 pm PDT

@ kellory

First Point: You can extract Oxygen from carbon dioxide.

Second Point: Depending on your depth will depend on the pressure that you have to try and move around in. The farther down the more pressure.

On Mars you can limit the eternal pressure in your suit to about 5 P.S.I., which was used on the earlier space missions. If you get a rip in your suit you can slap a sticky patch on it to temporarily seal it until you can get back into your pressurized rover or help from your partner. Yes a buddy system is best for working outside the habitats

A rip in a diving suit, especially on the deeper diving suits, means that you are going to get a jet of water hitting you. If you haven’t ever seen what a high pressure water jet can do in cutting something then you have missed a lot. ;High pressure water jets have been used from cleaning crud off of other things to cutting metal blocks. A high pressure water jet hitting you, say in the leg, means that you more than likely lose a leg let alone the prospect of drowning.

Third Point: You take along seeds for growing your own food. You can maybe also take along fertilized, frozen fish eggs to grow fish in tanks for a meat source. As for getting your food from the ocean, well after all the junk that has been dumped into it over the years, I’d be very leery of what I’d catch and eat from there.

Fourth (and final) Point: we both see things differently and just have to agree to disagree. I’d love to be able to live on a planet that has only .38 percent of Earth’s gravity.

JMOdom
12th June, 2012 @ 05:00 pm PDT

JMOdom, I am not suggesting this be run in the Trench. You could run the trial in a navy drydock. It does not need to be deep to be isolated. 10 feet would do it. And yes, I am familiar with the physics of water pressure and cutting techniques.

I am aware of the fact you can extract oxygen from Carbon Dioxide, You can also extract gold from seawater, it's just not cost effective to do so.

As for fish eggs and seeds, of course you would take whatever you can to grow more food, or did you expect to dig it from the mars surface? Gravity is just one factor, but it could cause a problem with the development of the food as it grows, That is still an unproven factor. The radiation could cause a problem as well.

Unexpected problems are a fact of life. A few years ago there was a problem with the deployment of a solar panel or solar sail in space, because no one thought to put a single nut on the other side of a flange so it's motion could be reversed when it stuck partly open, and it was way too far away to be corrected after the fact.

Or perhaps you are familiar with the problems with the Hubble Telescope? Or Skylab?

Or listen to the tapes from Nasa, when they refer the the atmosphere getting a little thick? They are talking about problems with the floating bits of feces and urine.

If reduced gravity is your only concern, then take a ride on the Vomit Comet, it is used to teach people about freefall.

And as for the ocean being a food source, are you kidding me? It is the largest source of food on this planet.

kellory
12th June, 2012 @ 11:11 pm PDT

@ kellory

Try reading a book be Robert Zubrin called “The Case For Mars” It describes ways and means to not only get to Mars and live off the land, but also how to be able to return. It was copyrighted in 1996. The book also looks into some of your arguments, especially the radiation ones.

The tech from that is now 16 years old. If it could have been done then, it can be done now.

Yes I understand all of your points. From my point of view, you seem to be one of the people that don’t want any extraterrestrial exploration. If we were to be living on Mars, with a self sustaining colony, there wouldn’t be as much chance of losing the whole human race if the Earth was hit by an asteroid. (Like what killed the dinosaurs.)

Two other points I missed the other day; 1) there were indications of water in the soil samples taken in to be analyzed. So there is a fairly good possibility that wells could be drilled to find sub-surface water. 2) Mars atmosphere will protect from some of the radiation, while making the Mars bases below ground will help delete the rest. As a side note, You are still getting a dose of radiation everyday you are alive here on Earth. And some radiation is needed for a human to survive.

I don’t think we will ever agree on the outcome of this discussion. You have your views and I have mine.

JMOdom
13th June, 2012 @ 03:45 pm PDT

What a brilliant idea!!!

And for all those individuals writing negative comments, just think back 500 years. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in history will be aware of the challenges faced during the early stages of globalization (often refereed to colonization). Throughout this period ships of men and women set out and spread civilization throughout the world in the most appalling conditions and facing considerably poor odds of success.

It could be very easily argued that these potential astronauts are still leagues ahead in terms of safety and well being.

Maybe we are all just too brain washed these days to think that there is more to life than a house in the burbs and children. Whoever wins this competition and participates in this project would become legend. Just think Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong etc. Fundamentally life is just one big adventure, it just depends on how you want to live it!

I salute the guys behind this project for the ambition and imagination. Just like the inspiration of 500 years ago, again it is time for humanity to take that next step forward and spread life throughout the stars!!!

BanjirCepat
13th June, 2012 @ 07:46 pm PDT

"Try reading a book be Robert Zubrin called “The Case For Mars” It describes ways and means to not only get to Mars and live off the land, but also how to be able to return. It was copyrighted in 1996. The book also looks into some of your arguments, especially the radiation ones." I will look into it, when I have time.

"

From my point of view, you seem to be one of the people that don’t want any extraterrestrial exploration." Assumption not based in fact.

" If we were to be living on Mars, with a self sustaining colony, there wouldn’t be as much chance of losing the whole human race if the Earth was hit by an asteroid. (Like what killed the dinosaurs.)" It will be a hell of a long time before there will be a sufficient genepool to offset that risk. And the money could be better spent fixing what is broken here at home. I am not adverse to expansion, but I don't want stupid mistakes killing people, even Gameshow contestants. Find the flaws here, under controlled conditions, before launching this Ark. Or it will be some simple, unforeseen glitch, that kills them all.

"Mars atmosphere will protect from some of the radiation, while making the Mars bases below ground will help delete the rest. As a side note, You are still getting a dose of radiation everyday you are alive here on Earth. And some radiation is needed for a human to survive." You can not DELETE radiation, but you can shield against it. And radiation is needed for humans to mutate, and absorb nutrients properly, I am aware of the health risks and benefits.

The risk of an asteroid has been with us for a long time, and while it's a real threat, It is not something that weighs on my mind like paying the overdue medical bills, or short hours on paychecks. It is a remote threat that pales when compared to the threat of a paycheck to paycheck existence.

I was raised, you take care of your own first, then take care of the rest.

kellory
13th June, 2012 @ 09:28 pm PDT

@ BanjirCepat

Thank you for some positive input on the subject.

@ kellory

“I was raised, you take care of your own first, then take care of the rest.” A lot of the early pioneers as “BanjirCepat” has stated faced appalling conditions. A whole lot of them died. The ones that were pioneers mostly moved to the new world to get a better life for themselves and their families. And if they could afford it in a few years, they sent for the rest of their families to come live with them.

“From my point of view, you seem to be one of the people that don’t want any extraterrestrial exploration." Assumption not based in fact.” Actually assumption based on what has been said in the comments section.

You also raised the point of using an underwater testing facility. No matter what depth you use (be it deep or shallow) the water will provide way more resistance to movement than an atmospheric environment.

“It will be a hell of a long time before there will be a sufficient gene pool to offset that risk. And the money could be better spent fixing what is broken here at home. I am not adverse to expansion, but I don't want stupid mistakes killing people, even Game show contestants.” The more people that are sent increases the gene pool. Last time I looked at the figures it would take about 10,000 people to have a big enough gene pool to be self sufficient and not get inbred.

“Find the flaws here, under controlled conditions, before launching this Ark. Or it will be some simple, unforeseen glitch that kills them all.” There will always be some sort of glitch in anything mechanical. It is the simplest things that go wrong, even here on Earth, that cause accidents that can and do kill people. You simply cannot prevent all accidents or mechanical failures.

In Robert Zubrin’s book “The Case For Mars” he addresses some of the following items: Radiation Hazards, Zero Gravity, Human Factors, Dust Storms, Back Contamination.

While I think that the exploration of Mars should be carried out in a fairly controlled manner, I do have my reservations about a TV company and “TV show contestants”.

I still believe we will never see eye-to-eye on this subject, but you are always going to find people that are willing to risk everything on the chance for a new and better life.

JMOdom
14th June, 2012 @ 01:56 pm PDT

JMOdom, "the early pioneers as “BanjirCepat” has stated faced appalling conditions. A whole lot of them died." All the more reason to do a mock up or trial run here under controlled conditions.

"“From my point of view, you seem to be one of the people that don’t want any extraterrestrial exploration." Assumption not based in fact.” Actually assumption based on what has been said in the comments section." Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

"You also raised the point of using an underwater testing facility. No matter what depth you use (be it deep or shallow) the water will provide way more resistance to movement than an atmospheric environment." I said nothing about resistance. My point was isolation.

"10,000 people to have a big enough gene pool to be self sufficient and not get inbred." At a rate of 4 new astronauts every two years, plus new children. Care to figure the cost of that many flights, materials wasted, years needed to complete the project to the point it could survive on it's own?

"There will always be some sort of glitch in anything mechanical. It is the simplest things that go wrong, even here on Earth, that cause accidents that can and do kill people. You simply cannot prevent all accidents or mechanical failures." BINGO! GIVE THAT MAN A CIGAR! There will be. So do your best to weed out the most obvious ones while you can. Perhaps you remember a movie (starred Tom Hanks) about the real life problem of even getting parts from OUR NASA program to work together? Air scrubbers and hoses and tanks where nothing fit together enough for our people to breathe? parts from the lander were the wrong shape, and fittings were different? The brightest minds looking at a pile of junk trying to figure out a solution before they all die? And even after a solution is found, THEY STILL HAVE TO GET THE ASTRONAUTS TO DUPLICATE IT on their end before they die? Figure out the problems here first. Standardize the equipment. Make sure components can be combined, altered, reconfigured at need, with the tools provided. That is what dry runs are for. Treat it as a scientific experiment, and test/prove each stage before it is out of reach.

"I still believe we will never see eye-to-eye on this subject, but you are always going to find people that are willing to risk everything on the chance for a new and better life." We have those fools here too, that is what Casinos are for.

I am a student of History, a lover of SciFi, and a fan of technology. And yet Murphy ('s Law) was an optimist.

kellory
14th June, 2012 @ 04:52 pm PDT

i think viewers will need a very strong stomach to watch their favourite characters slowly starve to death or die from some other means, pleading for a rescue which can never come...

inchiki
17th June, 2012 @ 06:54 pm PDT

Quite an interesting proposal, it might have a few flaws but nothing that looks terminal. I like the idea of a proper explorer type base being created on Mars - though the 6 billion price tag looks ridiculously small. The basic idea of a one way trip makes the whole thing far more doable. A fairly similar idea has been suggested for NASA missions - the astronauts go to Mars with only enough fuel for one way, they spend a year on Mars and manufacture the fuel their for their return to Earth. -

The biggest problem with the idea though is sticking with the current space technology, a six months of transfer in a tiny pod, bathed in radiation, with a lack of redundancy, space, or safety margins. One of the biggest problems for a mission like this is the severe lack of cargo capacity - just a few tons per trip means real bare margins on everything. I have looked at this problem for years and years and believe there are three-four main tenable options - nuclear pulse engines, high energy nuclear fission engines, nuclear fusion, the fourth outsider is using large scale chemical staging in orbit. In terms of radiation exposure - the best would be fusion, then pulse nuclear, then fission, then large scale chemical - though all are much better than could be achieved with current tech.

Nuclear pulse propulsion is the one everyone laughs at but is actually probably the best and most realistic option. It offers a fast transit of about 40 days plus the grunt to carry hundreds of tons of cargo and heavy radiation shielding plus large and spacious living quarters. - Because of its simplicity it actually has a pretty good safety margin, much better than chemical rockets for instance.

Fission rockets are more complex and with lower mass yields than pulse nuclear but can still achieve a good transit time of 40 days or less. - For gas core reactors (called 'nuclear light bulbs') the safety margins increace, efficiency almost doubles, and the journey time drops to 20 or 30 days.

With fusion of course the problem is making a working engine - especially one with enough power to lift itself into orbit - and such a machine would have to be very large and probably weigh some 50,000 tons. Anyway fusion rockets are probably still 20 or 30 years away, or maybe 10 - 15 years with Apollo type funding - but that's the real problem we're talking about $50 to $100 billion instead of $6. With a working machine though we could be talking about transits of 10 to 20 days and cargo limits of several thousand tons - or hundreds of passengers per mission, plus near total reusability. Fusion rockets would be enablers for manned missions to most of the planets and objects in the solar system - not just Mars...

That forth option large scale chemical staging still has long transit times to Mars, but gives a far larger craft that can weigh several hundred tons with maybe 500 tons of water as radiation shielding - with a total on orbit launch mass of maybe 2000 tons. All that translates into lower radiation and higher safety. The key to the whole thing is a rocket capable of lifting 500 or 1000 tins into orbit - and the idea has been around since the early 1960's. My back of envelope calculation was that it would cost about $50 billion to get this kind of technology up and running for a manned trips to Mars.

Robert Lucien Howe
18th June, 2012 @ 06:02 pm PDT

How to raise 6 billion dollars? I dunno, tap the top 100 wealthiest people in the world on the shoulder and ask for a few pennies?

Nick Thompson
8th May, 2013 @ 11:57 am PDT

Great article,great concept.

Big risks ,yes but still calculated.

Id go!Willingly.

Hope they make it all.

Solid
13th May, 2013 @ 07:31 am PDT
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