Scientists call for Base-Camp Outpost on Mars
in just twenty years time.
During the more than 40 years since the last Apollo mission, no human has set foot on a planetary body beyond Earth.
Among those who were witnesses to the first and last moon landings, there is skepticism that we will ever step onto another planet sized body again.
“ - President Obama informed NASA last April that he "believed by the mid-2030s that we could send humans to orbit Mars and safely return them to Earth. And that a landing would soon follow - ” said agency spokesman Michael Braukus.”
The following news appeared in Yahoo! News the first of this week. The thrust of the proposal was that if a mission to Mars was only in one direction, and manned by people (4-on two separate vehicles) who would willingly go with the understanding that their return was not planned for, that the costs would be a fraction of one with a plan to return. The crew could best spend their time setting up infrastructure for a permanent colony with the equipment that had been sent by earlier unmanned missions.
“ - The first colonists to Mars wouldn’t go in "cold." Robotic probes sent on ahead would establish necessities such as an energy source (such as a small nuclear reactor augmented by solar panels), enough food for two years, the basics for creating home-grown agriculture, one or more rover vehicles and a tool-kit for carrying out essential engineering and maintenance work. - ”
The paradigm of the proposal is comparable to that of the settlement of the “New World." Those who arrived from Europe aboard the Mayflower in 1620 had no plans of returning to their former homeland.
Their journey took 66 days. A trip to Mars requires 6-months in the best orbital situation. This is about two-and-a-half times the Mayflower transit for a one way journey. In this plan, fuel could be used more extravagantly; so If a return was planned, a trip which used fuel out and back most efficiently would require about 44 months, with 26 months spent on planet.
A large part of those 26-months would be spent logistically, partly preparing fuels for the return mission. During the trip, about 18 months would be spent in zero gravity, and the 26 months on planet would be spent in gravity only 38% of earth’s. Undoubtedly there would need to be an intense rehabilitation program after being exposed to a long period of zero gravity and for an extended period, Mar's gravity.
If the trip was only one way, the time spent on preparing for the return could be spent in making their habitation permanent, and laying the foundation for future permanent habitants, which would recruited on an ongoing basis.
The pioneers suggested by the two scientists who make this proposal would be people who “were a bit older, around 60 or something like that.” Consider the people who explored Antarctica a century ago; since they saw that many of those who had gone before never returned they understood the risks. They were up to a challenge even though they went less prepared than our hypothetical Mars pioneers.
This kind of a mission will never come from the NASA agency. I suggest that is because it would be politically incorrect to consider such a plan. As the colonization of North America was economically driven, this will be too. The people who landed at Plymouth Rock, had no expectation of becoming rich. Only their “sponsors” did; by investing in the passengers, they were after a stake in relatively unknown possibilities for future trade, and as yet undefined opportunities.
An optimistic take on this one-direction-colonization would be that technology would catch up with the reality of the pursuit, and in a few decades some would be able to return; but to what purpose? They would have been transformed by their experience in ways that would make their return to earth a hazardous proposition.
Here's the TEXT OF PAPER by the two scientists
TITLED: To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D.1, and Paul Davies, Ph.D.2,
1School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Washington State University
2Beyond Center, Arizona State University
Davies is a physicist whose research focuses on cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology. He was an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts.
Schulze-Makuch works in the Earth Sciences department at WSU and is the author of two books about life on other planets. His focus is eco-hydrogeology, which includes the study of water on planets and moons of our solar system and how those could serve as a potential habitat for microbial life.
Cassius: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings