So how much do you know about Mars? Let’s recap before we get into the details of the Mars One Mission.
It is one of the closest planets to our own, along with Venus. Which one is closer at any given time all depends on their orbits. The minimum distance from Earth to Mars is 54.6 million kilometers and the Red Planet is about half the size of Earth. There are high amounts of iron oxide on the surface which give the planet its distinct red color and it has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. It is a terrestrial planet which has an atmosphere, however, it is too thin for humans to survive without additional support.
Now, does that sound like a place you’d like to go? If you watched Matt Damon in The Martian you’ll probably say no. Traveling to Mars may seem like science fiction right now, but many folks believe that it will become a reality in the very near future.
The question is no longer if we will be able to get people to Mars, it’s simply a matter of when it will happen.
One of the more ambitious projects is Mars One, which plans to land the first Martian pioneers on the Red Planet in 2032. Here’s what you need to know about this mission.
15. No Scientific Breakthroughs Are Needed
I don’t know about you, but this one surprised the heck out of me. According to the official Mars One website, we don’t need to make any scientific breakthroughs to get people to Mars. This doesn’t mean that everything is ready to go as it is but we don’t need to solve any major scientific problems or create new inventions to make this dream a reality. What does need to happen is design, to make all the components needed to make the journey and start a colony.
Currently, the technology to land people on Mars exists, however getting them off again is still a problem because a heavy launch vehicle capable of this doesn’t exist (yet). That’s why they chose to make this a one-way trip for everyone involved.
14. The First Astronauts Have Already Been Selected
According to the latest timeline on their website, the Mars One Mission plans to land the first astronauts on the Red Planet in 2032. And all the candidates have already been chosen from thousands of applicants all over the globe.
The selection process started in 2013 with online applications and personal interviews. Slowly the candidates went through selection rounds until only 24 people remained. These candidates were divided into six teams of four in 2016. Just think about this for a second, if you were 30 years old in 2013 when you applied and you made it to the finals, you will be 49 years old by the time you land on Mars.
13. The Astronauts Began Their Training This Year
So 2017 was a big year for Mars One because this is when the chosen candidates began their training – which will continue until 2031 when they leave for Mars. There are six groups consisting of four people each (two men and two women) and every group will spend several months of each year training for their life-changing journey.
The most important part of their training will be learning how to spend prolonged periods with each other in a remote location. Just think about how well they will know each other by the time they leave!
Other components of their training include how to conduct repairs on equipment, medical procedures, and how to grow food in the special habitat that they will live in. They will also train in remote areas with Mars-like terrain and conditions.
12. Getting Soil From Mars Is One Of The Most Critical Aspects Of The Mission
In 2022 Mars One will launch the Mars-bound Demonstration Mission. This is one of the most important steps in getting humans to Mars and creating a colony. This will be an unmanned proof of concept mission, designed to ensure that life will indeed be able to survive on the Red Planet.
The payload of the lander will include a camera to allow for a video stream from Mars to Earth (let’s hope they will have a YouTube channel for that), a solar panel experiment (to test if they will be able to provide enough renewable energy for the pioneers) and most importantly a water extraction experiment. This last experiment will need to prove that water can be extracted from the Martian soil. If not it could spell the end of the Mars One Mission because with our current technology we could not transport enough water to Mars to maintain the settlers.
11. The First Team Will Leave For Mars In 2031 And Arrive After 8 Months
If everything goes as planned 2031 is going to be one of the most exciting years in history. Once the systems set in place have been given the green light the Mars Transit System will blast off from Earth with its first four human passengers. They will first travel into Earth’s orbit and then about a month later boosters will “kick” the spaceship into its flight path to Mars.
The journey will take approximately eight months, which probably doesn’t sound like a lot right? But it’s a long journey, both mentally and physically for the astronauts. Living in such close quarters will be trying for the passengers and add to that the uncertainty of what awaits them when they arrive. Also, imagine the kind of pressure they are going to be under with the entire planet watching. It’s clear why choosing the right people for a mission like this took so many years.
10. It’s A One Way Trip…
The Mars One crews are made up entirely of people who want to settle on Mars permanently. Once they are there coming back will be impossible. I don’t think we can even begin to fathom the type of bravery a mission like this one calls for. These people are not going to leave their town or their country – they are going to leave their planet, forever.
Not having to plan for a return mission keeps the cost of the project down. In the future, they do hope to develop technology that will make return journeys possible, but this is still a long way off. A return trip would need to be tested using an unmanned vehicle first and even after that, the risk to astronauts would be very high.
9. Some People Believe That Mars One Is A Hoax
I don’t know about you, but being alive to see humans land on Mars will probably be the highlight of my life. I don’t see how it could get any more exciting than that. But not everyone is jumping for joy about the Mars One Mission. There has been a lot of criticism regarding their funding estimates and timelines and some people don’t believe that they project will happen at all. There are even folks who think the whole thing is just a hoax.
Now it is true that the timeline for the mission has been set back a few years, but honestly, they are trying to get humans to Mars. It’s one of the greatest endeavors mankind has ever undertaken so what difference does a few years even make? Every massive project has setbacks, but that’s no reason to think it won’t happen at all.
8. Mars One And Space X Are Not The Same Thing
Space X and Mars One are not the same project but they do have similar goals in mind.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly known as Space X, is an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company that was founded in 2002 by South African born inventor and business magnate Elon Musk. Their goal is to make space transportation cheaper which could enable mankind to colonize Mars soon.
In 2016 Musk revealed their plans for the Interplanetary System program which will develop advanced spaceflight technology, which could be used to transport colonists to Mars. The main difference between the two approaches is that Space X wants to enable people to travel back and forth from the Red Planet while Mars One is keeping their costs low by going with a one-way journey.
7. The Life Support Systems Will Already Be In Place By The Time The First Humans Arrive
In 2029 the Mars One project will begin sending cargo to the Red Planet. A specially designed Rover will also be transported in the same mission, which will pick up all the cargo units, including the first life support unit. The rover will place the living unit in the chosen location and deploy the solar panel films to power the unit. This power source will also make it possible for the rover to recharge itself before it begins setting up the inflatable living units.
The rover will connect the living units to the life support unit with a hose that can transport water, air, and power. Once this is done the environmental control systems can begin. By the time the first humans arrive, they will have a breathable atmosphere in the living units, about 3000 liters of water and 240 kg of oxygen available to them.
6. The Martian Settlers Will Live In Specially Adapted Living Units
Once the astronauts land on Mars they will be transported to the special living unit that the Rover would have set up. They will enter via an airlock and once inside they will have breathable air so they will be able to take off their spacesuits. These living units will be inflatable and will be built using existing technology that has already been tested in space.
After the astronauts have recovered from their long journey they will get to work constructing the rest of their settlement. Construction materials will already be on Mars that will allow them to construct rooms, floors and electrical outlets. Inside they will also have wet areas such as kitchens and showers.
They will then get to work setting up the solar panels and starting food production. Once all this is complete and operational, they will begin constructing another living unit for the next four astronauts.
5. They’ll Need Special Mars Suits For Temps Of 81°F To -225°F
Although Mars does have an atmosphere, it is too thin to breathe and contains too much carbon dioxide. The temperatures on Mars range between 27 °C (81 °F) and -143 °C (-225 °F) so the settlers will need special full body suits whenever they leave their habitat. These suits are still in the design phase but will need to be flexible enough to allow the astronauts to work with bulky construction materials and delicate machinery while protecting them from the harsh environment.
There is gravity on Mars, but it is not as strong as the gravity on Earth. If you weighed 100kg on Earth you would only weigh 38kg on Mars. At the moment we are not aware of the long-term effects of reduced gravity on the human body.
4. There Will Be A Vote For Us To Decide Which Team Goes Up First
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is if the project does go ahead as planned and Mars One sends the first astronauts to Mars, who are they going to be? How will they choose the first four people that will set foot on another planet? I mean the moon landing was one thing, but another planet? That’s a massive honor and their names will surely go down in history.
So how will they choose?
The short answer is that Mars One won’t choose. It’s expected that six groups of four people will be ready by that stage and the choice will be left to you, me, and the rest of the planet.
Because Mars One believes that this is part of humankind’s history they want to leave it up to us to decide. According to them, the whole world will be able to vote for their favorite group when the time comes. Something to look forward to for sure.
3. They Plan To Use Natural Resources On Mars
Although Mars is not as suitable for human life as Earth is it does have resources that can be used to create a suitable living environment. If water can be extracted from the soil this can be used to grow crops, drinking, and support hygiene needs. The water can also be used to generate oxygen.
The settlers will be able to use the Martian soil to cover their outpost which will help block out cosmic radiation. They also plan to collect nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, although these systems have not yet been tested in space.
Using solar power for the settlement is the obvious choice, otherwise, a nuclear reactor would need to be delivered to Mars at a massive cost. The plan is to use thin solar panels which are extremely light and easy to transport.
2. Funding Continues To Be A Challenge
The team at Mars One has estimated that they need $6 billion to take the first four astronauts to Mars. This includes the unmanned missions that will need to go ahead to prepare the setup for the first settlers. Because the project is being run by a not-for-profit organization they are doing everything they can to raise the money needed.
This includes selling broadcast rights for the mission, securing sponsorship deals, crowdfunding (yes, you can make donations too), and licensing intellectual property rights from inventions made during the development stages. Of course, they are also relying heavily on private donations from generous philanthropists.
1. Mars One May Not Get To The Red Planet First
Mars One is an ambitious project, but they are not an aerospace company. This means that all the work required to complete the mission will need to be contracted out to other companies. So will they be the first to reach Mars? Maybe not.
There are several contenders in the Mars race. Perhaps NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft will carry the first astronauts to the Red Planet or maybe Russia or China will beat them to it. Many folks think that Space X has the best chance of reaching Mars first because they have the resources and the drive to do so.
Other contenders include the Mars Society who also have a two-phase plan called Mars Direct with the aim of colonization.
But the point is that we are going to land on Mars, no question about it. It’s just a matter of time.