Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dreaming of Mars One

Mars One will establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. A habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land. The settlement will support them while they live and work on Mars the rest of their lives. Every two years after 2023 an additional crew will arrive, such that there is a real living, growing community on Mars. Mars One has created a technical plan for this mission that is as simple as possible. For every component of the mission we have identified at least one potential supplier. Mars One invites you to join us in this next giant leap for mankind!

-from the Mars One home page.

I came across this quite by accident but when I did, a power surge of childhood fantasies flooded my memory and my imagination. Actually living on another planet.


I was a kid in the 1960s and from that point of view, the 21st century was where everything incredible was going to happen. It was also, far, far away, so I knew that I'd probably be a little too old to colonize the moon or be part of the first manned mission to Mars.

But I could dream.

As a side note, I also fantasized about spending a year in Antarctica. Strange, I know, but the stark landscape, scarcity of people, and the sheer romantic drama of it all really appealed to me.

Of course, I really didn't consider how boring it would have been or how dangerous. But hey, I was 14.

As far as I can tell, Mars One is real or it's trying to be. Apparently, it's the dream of a small number of investors, engineers, and scientists who don't want to visit Mars; they want to live there...soon.

OK, maybe "they" won't be living on Mars (at least not all of them) but they want to develop the technology and the implementation that would result in other human beings taking a one way trip from Earth to Mars and establishing a small (at first) permanent colony.

Stupid, crazy, or brilliant?
Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by April 2023. The first crew of four astronauts emigrate to their new planet from Earth, a journey that takes seven months. A new team will join the settlement every two years. By 2033 there will be over twenty people living, working and flourishing on Mars, their new home.
-Mars One Mission and Vision
It all sounds real, but anyone can create a website.

The Mars One FAQ page digs into all of the pesky questions you might have about such an insane enterprise such as, is this for real, where does the money come from, and how am I going to live on Mars...forever?

Even being extremely optimistic about all this, accomplishing the specific goals and timeframes stated on the site is an incredible long shot. We really don't know the long-term (as in years and decades) effect of living on a planet with significantly less gravity than Earth on the human body. We don't have the proven technology to transport human beings to another planet, build living quarters, and establish a sustainable living environment out of the little you are able to bring with you plus the available resources in the Martian environment.

Oh yeah, and it looks like they have little to no money to even start this whole thing off.

All that said, if I were a lot younger, really healthy, really intelligent, educated in a relevant field, and completely unattached, I might just fill out an application.


The adventure. The romantic drama. The absolute thrill of really travelling through interplanetary space in real life and then actually living on another planet; having a home address that ends, "Planet: Mars".

OK, it's a dopey idea. Once the spaceship launched, I'd probably get space sick and spend the seven month one-way trip puking. I'd have to really get along with the other three people in the ship since living quarters would be tight (much more spacious in the colony, if the FAQ page is correct). Then, there's all the hard work in putting together the inflatable structures and constructing the technology that would somehow make breathable air, drinkable water, and edible food.

And then it would probably get boring and lonely. A whole planet, and at first, I'd be sharing it with only three other human beings. No way to lose myself in a crowd. On the other hand, I could walk 30 minutes in any direction away from the camp and be really alone if I wanted to be.

Really alone.

In any event, Mars One will have no appreciable impact on my life. I lack 100% of the necessary qualifications, and I'm not physically, emotionally, or in any other sense built for this sort of thing. Plus my wife would kill me if I tried to go.

No, I don't actually want to go to Mars.

But imagining the adventure is just terrific. Ah to be 14 years old again.

And to dream.