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Lining Up For A One-Way Trip To Mars

By James Donahue

At last count, more than 78,000 people from all over the world have applied for one of the seats on Mars One, a privately financed and one-way trip from Earth to Mars. Applications will be accepted until August 31 so this number of potential travelers is expected to grow even larger.

Why would so many people be willing to leave the comforts of Earth and venture out into a long and cramped ride through space, make a dangerous landing on a distant planet that offers no air, little if any water, and no promise of escape back to Earth if anything goes wrong?

There is something about the human spirit that makes people take extreme risks, if only to prove that it is possible to achieve the impossible. Why, for example, do people climb the world’s tallest and most dangerous mountains? Why do they jump out of aircraft and parachute back to earth from thousands of feet in the sky? Why do they ride in barrels over Niagara Falls?

The Mars One project . . . an attempt to build and maintain a human colony on the Red Planet . . . might be compared to the early European settlements in North America after the "New World" was discovered over 600 years ago. They packed into the stinky dank hulls of small wooden sailing ships, spent months on the open sea, and then stepped into unexplored and hostile territories occupied by native tribes that did not understand their language or culture. They had air, water and land on which to produce food, but even then the first settlers perished for a variety of reasons. Yet once the movement west began, it could not be stopped.

What drove those early settlers into North America? Perhaps it was the same issues that confront people all over the world today. There is religious persecution, war, political struggle between the poverty stricken masses against the wealthy, ruling power figures, overpopulation, pollution, climate change and other issues that work to rob the human freedom of expression and creative design.

For the last 300 years the United States held a reputation all over the world as "the land of the free." We even sang about it in our songs of national pride. But this freedom has eroded as corporations and wealthy power figures grow in strength, taking over our election system, tearing down our Constitutional freedoms as expressed in our Bill of Rights, and turning the working people into slave laborers.

America was our last bastion of hope. Now, with this taken from us, we can understand the interest by thousands of people in striking out for a chance in a new world settlement on such distant places as Mars. If the technology exists, and it might be possible to settle a colony on that sister planet, why not go for it?

This Mars endeavor is not going to happen overnight. There is a lot of work to be done before people begin to board flights to Mars, possibly by the year 2023. When they go, Bas Lansdorp, CEO of the Dutch based company, promises that the mission will "represent all humanity, and its true spirit will be justified only when people from the entire world are represented."

What is amazing is that those 78,000 applicants were received in just two weeks after Mars One began receiving them. Lansdorp said the company goal is a half a million applicants. From this list somewhere between 28 to 40 candidates will be selected, representing a variety of necessary vocations to make the beginning stages of a Martian colony succeed. This number will then spend seven years in vigorous training.

The technology for building space craft, landing rovers and safely dropping everything to the surface of Mars has been developed by NASA and the private company SpaceX, which recently sent a ship into space and connected with the International Space Station.

Before any men or material are sent off to Mars, the company plans to build a replica of the Mars settlement on a cold, desolate environment. This will be used to help the astronauts prepare and train and test the equipment.

Plans are to begin sending supplies and material to a selected landing site on Mars by October, 2016. The first ship will carry a cargo of spare parts, solar photovoltaic panels and general supplies. The first settlement rover will be sent in 2018. Six more landers will be sent in 2021, carrying all of the rest of the settlement components. These will include two living units, two life support units, a second supply unit and another rover.

By early 2022 the equipment for oxygen, atmosphere and water production will be in place. Then the first ship carrying human cargo . . . four selected astronauts, will be launched in September of 2022. When they land in 2023, their job will be to assemble all of the connecting tubes between the capsules, activating the food production units, assembling solar photovoltaic panels and get the place prepared for more occupants.

During this time, five more cargo ships arrive, carrying even more supplies, additional living units, life support units and a third rover.

A second crew of four astronauts arrives in June, 2025. And additional teams start arriving after this as the colony grows and becomes a proven success.

The entire project, already estimated to cost somewhere in the multi-billions of dollars, will be televised in its entirety. Mars One plans to sell advertising spots to cover most of the cost.

As one writer expressed it:

"It will be the most elaborate reality TV show of all time. The whole thing will be like The Real World in space with no way to get home. There will be no return shuttle, there’s no hope of escape if anything goes wrong. These people will live the rest of their lives on Mars as pioneers and will die heroes and explorers. Or they will sell-destruct on the way there and leave us with one of the most amazing reality TV show endings. Either way, there’s advertising real estate to sell."