Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Mars or Bust, Scientists Call for Suicide Mission Volunteers!

with 18 comments

Has NASA really put out a call for people who want to volunteer for a one way mission to Mars? Well, not yet, but two scientists did float the idea to test the waters so to speak. And it turns out, which shouldn’t be too surprising, that there are indeed people who would volunteer for a one way mission to Mars. Hell, theres been times in my life when I would have considered it … now is not one of them. So why are space scientists bringing this up? Well, the USA and NASA (not to mention other nations) are starting to think about sending people to Mars and possibly an asteroid or two. These are basically the next logical targets for human exploration. (Venus and Mercury are closer, but there’s nowhere to land on Venus, and Mercury has a variety of nasty complications.) And the bottom line is, unlike 1950s scifi movies, missions to Mars especially are effectively one way missions.

There’s two reasons for this. The first is that getting people back from Mars is a huge problem, much harder than getting them there in the first place. It means sending enormous amounts of fuel on the trip for one thing, and even if that is worked around, it means a huge expensive return vehicle has to be somehow brought along. And secondly, since the mission is going to last for years in any event, and all sorts of things could foul up a return mission, mission planning has to include the possibility that the return ship may not work. And when it comes right down to it, it makes a lot more sense to use your payloads sent to Mars to contain every possible thing to make long term survival possible.

Basically in some very real senses we are getting back into the age of exploration again. When Columbus and his ilk set sail, they knew that they might be gone for years and planned accordingly. And missions to Mars are the same. It will take six months to get there, and once people are there I think it’s a good part of a year or longer before the planets are aligned for a trip back. Might as well plan for the long haul, it will increase the chances of the mission succeeding. Sound crazy? It’s not, bear me out. This is pure speculation on my part how this could happen, colonizing Mars, here’s my plan:

1. Three likely sites on Mars are chosen, two rovers are sent to each site, and two communications/weather satellites are orbited. (All in pairs of two to hopefully avoid the failure of a single item crippling the mission.) The best site is chosen, access to water and a large cave are the main requirements we are looking for. Water for obvious reasons and a cave to shelter from solar radiation and small meteorites.

2. The most likely looking site is chosen. At least one robotic supply ship is landed at the site. To both add to the supply pool when the colonists arrive, and to make sure the robotic supply ships actually work. If possible, robotic ships could also be landed that started to collect water, and possibly even start stockpiling rocket fuel. (With water and solar power, water can be split into oxygen and hydrogen, a fine rocket fuel.)

3. Then the colonists arrive. With proper planning even if somehow they lose all of their equipment in the landing, for example by landing too far away from the chosen colony site, they can still survive if they can get to the pre-supplied colony site.

4. And then they settle in for the long haul. Presumably supply ships from Earth will still periodically arrive, including more colonists if all is going well. Presumably at some point rocket fuel can be manufactured from local water. And sometime down the road, maybe even decades later, ships for those who want to return would be feasible.

Crazy? Not at all, humans have done the same thing all the time throughout history. Risky? Absolutely. The biggest risk is that human biology might be incompatible with living on Mars, the low gravity being the biggest worry. It’s only 38% Earth normal. That might be enough, especially with exercise and maybe even sleeping in high G centrifuges, to avoid the eventually crippling bone loss and weakness that long term exposure to weightlessness brings. Might be. It’s also possible that this plan will result in the Mars colonists getting ever weaker and finally dying despite our best efforts. Well, if we’re gonna colonize other planets, that’s a risk we’re going to have to take. There are plenty of people who would be glad to take it, humans are an amazingly diverse and curious lot.

So, would the gentle reader volunteer for a trip to Mars, knowing that at best it would be ten years or longer before a return was possible, and no guarantee that it would ever be possible?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s from an episode of a show that truly impressed me as a young lad, for its time it was wonderful creepy scifi. Kudos if anyone recognizes it.)


Written by unitedcats

October 25, 2010 at 5:34 am

18 Responses

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  1. I probably would go now but, I seriously asked my Fiancée if she would go but, she’s not really the pioneer type though. Maybe ten years down the road, after I have some kids.



    October 25, 2010 at 7:15 am

  2. I would go


    October 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

  3. Sign me up, its the adventure of a lifetime.

    Josh V.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:48 am

  4. Somewhat like Red Mars, I guess, except that the first trip is the colony trip. In Red Mars, the colonists lived in trailer-style habitats until an underground building could be constructed; this would provide a little more versatility in selecting colony sites.

    Tom Dickson-Hunt

    October 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm

  5. Sounds great. But I think we have a “training field” for those kind of missions next door; the Moon. Colonize it first is a priority in my opinion. It would make a lot of sense having permanent bases there to start. When Vikings first set foot on the American continent they were sailing along the coast. They didn’t cross the Atlantic Ocean.


    October 26, 2010 at 1:41 am

  6. Count me in.

    laris beganovic

    October 27, 2010 at 6:43 am

  7. Well, humanity did these kinds of things with the hope of huge rewards on return or because they were “forced” to by their “employer” (i.e. military) …
    So how are you going to rewards these intrepid non-military colonisers? Sending some pretty gals/boys with them wont do … :o)
    Therefore I guess it will be military personnel that will be going out to colonise whatever mineral rich area for whichever country gets there first …
    just thinking


    October 28, 2010 at 6:19 am

  8. Can someone tell me where’s the sign up site! J

    Jason reed

    October 28, 2010 at 6:22 am

  9. One believes that if, or when, someone invades the planet, it will be a military mission and top-secret one at that. The public will be the last to know. Not until the authorities are established, will they inform us. This event currently is impossible; we do not have the technology _ unless, of course, we already have it from our extraterrestrials.


    November 1, 2010 at 2:36 am

  10. sign me in…..whats the procedure to sign up???


    November 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm

  11. im ready too..seriously..where do i sign?

    shawn myers

    September 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  12. Absolutely.

    Troy Boyle

    September 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

  13. Please. I dont mind dying and Im 51. And there could be no better way to do it. Im ready. I AM the mission commander. Put me in there tomorrow, Im ready to go. You can put a statue up. God Speed John Glenn, and Yuri Gagarin I am Paul Boyle, the first Irish astronaut. Test me and see. Im made of the right stuff. NO FEAR.

    Paul Boyle

    October 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm

  14. beam me up scotty.


    January 7, 2012 at 1:15 am

  15. Right now? No, I wouldn’t go. There is too much places and stuff on this planet that I still want to see and experience. Can’t speak for my future self either but I think the answer would still be no.


    March 23, 2012 at 11:06 am

  16. I’d go. First man on Mars? Etched into history just for landing. :)

    Commander Shepard

    April 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  17. definitely would go, infact heard they looking, have no idea were to sign up tho


    June 26, 2012 at 2:54 am

  18. I would like to volunteer.

    Celeste Perelini

    May 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

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