Science | Human settlement on Mars by 2023, would you take the one way trip?

The red planet, commemorating  the roman god of war, may cause many people to visualise a dry, arid landscape composed primarily of silicate rocks, complete with craters, volcanoes, deserts and an overall inhospitable environment, however it seems over 200,000 applicants are desperate to make Mars their final destination.

The non profit foundation, Mars One, is attempting to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet by 2023. Popularity for this mission was evident through 78,000 applicants registering within two weeks of it’s announcement, but only 24 are to make the final cut. Once selected, the candidates will begin an intense eight year training regime where they will be subjected to extended periods of isolation.

Paul Römer, co -creator of Big Brother and ambassador of this upcoming voyage to Mars believes that it could the, ‘biggest media event in the world’, and it is this public interest which Bas Lansdorp, the engineer and founder of the £4 billion project believes will fund the mission for humans to inhabit Mars. Because of this, Landsdorp plans to sell the broadcasting rights of the total experience, capturing moments from the selection process of the ‘contestants’ to their eventual arrival on Mars.

Hopeful contenders have stated reasons for applying such as their curiosity for adventure, to find insights into the human mind and to be a part of something they believe will massively impact the planet as a whole. While much excitement and optimism has been surrounding the project, concerns regarding the health and safety of the volunteers have been expressed.  Dr Veronica Bray of the University of Arizona highlighted the fact that the radiation which the candidates will be exposed to during the estimated travel period of 200 days could lead to a lower immune system and possible infertility.

Uninhabitable as Mars may appear, it seems there are many aspects which are reminiscent of Earth, such as its capacity for seasons and structural features including valleys and deserts, but the most exciting similarity to Earth stems from NASAs most recent discovery on the red planet: water. The aeronautic agencies’ latest rover, Curiosity, has revealed that the surface soil which covers the entire planet contains approximately two percent water by weight, which means it has the potential for pioneering astronauts to extract a litre of water from every cubic foot has huge implications for the lifestyle and survival of the prospective colonists.

So while there are still multiple obstacles to encounter and many years of preparation to wait, the ambition of Lansdorp and Römer combined with the technological advances and NASA’s recent discovery may prove to eventually establish life on Mars.


Hayley Williams

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