Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mars ... on a one-way trip

Alan Boyle writes: Will the first explorers to visit Mars come back to Earth? Or does it actually make more sense to leave them there? The idea of sending the Red Planet's first settlers on one-way trips has been kicking around for years, and now two researchers have published a paper in the Journal of Cosmology laying out how such missions could play out between now and 2035.

"It is important to realize that this is not a 'suicide mission,'" Washington State University's Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Arizona State University's Paul Davies write. "The astronauts would go to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony."

In a WSU news release, Davies said the concept follows the model set by past human settlements of new lands. "It would really be little different from the first white settlers of the North American continent, who left Europe with little expectation of return," he said.

Back in the mid-1990s, rocket scientist and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin pointed out that "colonization is, by definition, a one-way trip," and since then experts have debated the best way to do one-way. Four years ago, X Prize co-founder Peter Diamandis suggested setting up a private-sector "Mars Citizenship Program," with volunteers kicking in from $10,000 to $1 million each, About 100 candidates would be chosen by lottery to take the trip to a Red Planet colony prepared for them by robots. ...

First, robots would identify a suitable location for a colony, based on the availability of a natural shelter (such as a lava tube cave) and the availability of water (in the form of ice, of course) as well as minerals and nutrients.

... The first one-way missions might involved two spaceships, each with a two-person crew. One of the astronauts should be a trained physician, and all of them should have scientific and technical know-how as well as a passion for research and exploration.

... Those first colonists should be beyond reproductive age, due to the concerns about radiation as well as reduced life expectancy in a frontier environment. ...

via Cosmic Log - Going to Mars ... on a one-way trip.

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