Mars One mission could go horribly wrong — if it ever gets off the ground

On April 24, 2013

Mars One habitat

For the space-inclined, the week got off to an interesting start on Monday with a press conference from the team behind Mars One, the Dutch not-for-profit organisation that’s planning to broadcast the establishment of the first human settlement on Mars like a reality TV show. It was a fascinating conference, more for what the Mars One panel didn’t say than for what they did. And the public response was pretty interesting, too; reactions online were mixed between excitement from the average person and deep scepticism from those in the space community. So, after hearing the latest news about Mars One, do I think the mission is feasible? As much as I love space exploration, I have to respond with a resounding “No”.

For those of you who don’t know about the Mars One mission, here’s the gist. Beginning in 2016, Mars One will launch unmanned cargo missions to Mars to deliver all the things astronauts will need to build a habitat and establish a community on the red planet. In 2023, the first crew will arrive. They will use the pre-landed hardware and supplies to set up a habitat, start farming the land, and set up for the rest of their lives – this mission is a one way trip. After the first crew, Mars One will take advantage of favourable launch opportunities – there’s one every 26 months – to send more supplies and more crews. And the whole thing will be funded by TV revenue. From astronaut selection to their deaths on Mars, the world will be watching.

So there are a lot of reasons to view the Mars One project as insane.

Let’s start with the technology. The team behind the mission claims that the mission is feasible with existing hardware. That may be true, but “existing” does not necessarily mean flight ready, let alone suitable for a manned mission. Only the Russian Soyuz is currently able to take humans into space, and that’s not a spacecraft equipped to land on Mars. And the landing is another issue. Mars One says it will use retrorocket (rockets that fire to slow the spacecraft for a soft touchdown) and no parachute to land its crew on Mars. That’s a method that’s never been done. NASA’s Viking landers use retrorockets, but they also used a parachute in the early stage of their descent and weighed far less than a manned spacecraft. I can only imagine how much the fuel for a powered descent would weigh for a spacecraft not taking advantage of a parachute-assisted descent.

And that’s just the technical side of things. There’s a human side to take into consideration, too. Mars One has opened its astronaut application to everyone. If you’re between 20 and 40 years old and healthy, you’re qualified to fly on Mars One. Education and background doesn’t matter. Instead, a sense of humour and the ability to work well with others are key characteristics Mars One is looking for in astronaut hopefuls. It’s such an inclusive selection criteria because science isn’t the focus of Mars One, colonization is. There will be little to no science on the mission, said the Mars One team. Except, that is, for a long list of things the crew will have to do: fix anything that breaks; build and maintain their habitat; diagnose and treat injury and illness, and possibly perform surgery; and learn how to live off the Martian land. Not only does that sound like a lot of science, it sounds like a lot of very specialised science.

The other key piece of the mission the Mars One team skirted over at Monday’s press conference is funding. The first manned mission, they said, will cost six billion US dollars. They didn’t say whether that figure includes research and development or any of the early cargo missions, nor did they say what levels of funding they have secured. They only said that they will raise the money for the mission by broadcasting the whole process on TV. Their model for this decision is the Olympics. Last year’s Summer Olympics in London turned a profit of about $4 billion through TV broadcast rights and ad revenue. And as the Mars One team pointed out, that was only a three week event. The Mars One mission will be broadcast over years. The idea is that as we get to know the crews, we’ll be taken into their stories. It’s the human side of this mission that is so important. That’s the side that will sell.

The problem with the reality TV funding model is that the money will come after the mission has started, not before, which is when missions like this really need money. Mars One didn’t say anything about how they will deal with cost overruns, which are inevitable with an undertaking of this magnitude. The problem with the 2016 launch is that Mars One hasn’t said who will be providing the spacecraft and rocket, and the launch date is really close on the horizon. As far as we know, none of the hardware has been tested either on Earth or on Mars. If the first mission will launch in three years, Mars One need to start landing tests tomorrow. The problem with the open call for astronauts, at least from what Mars One is saying publicly, is that they might not have the right expertise for such a demanding mission, which could be catastrophic.

There are so many unknowns with this mission and so many possible ways the whole endeavour could fall apart. It will be an interesting mission to follow, but I suspect it will be another in the growing list of old and abandoned Mars plans that have been forgotten by everyone save a handful of historians.

Image: Mars One

About Amy Shira Teitel

Amy Shira Teitel has an academic background in the history of science, and now works as a freelance science writer specialising in space history. She has a blog, Vintage Space, on Popular Science, writes for Discovery News and Motherboard, among others, and is also a video host at Scientific American. You can find her on Google+

104 Responses to Mars One mission could go horribly wrong — if it ever gets off the ground

  1. “And the landing is another issue. Mars One says it will use retrorocket (rockets that fire to slow the spacecraft for a soft touchdown) and no parachute to land its crew on Mars. That’s a method that’s never been done.”

    That is not correct. Tintin has used it to land on the moon: it works.

    • Since they’re talking about actually doing this thing I think it’s fair to say that fictional landings don’t count. Also landing on the atmosphereless Moon is entirely different than landing on Mars. The Apollo Lunar Module landed with just retros but the same vehicle would have burned and died a fiery death had it tried to land on Mars.

    • @Raphael Levy: But the Moon has no atmosphere. It’s a much different problem. Amy is right about powered descent on Mars.

        • The Moon has practically no atmosphere, ie an envelope of gas surrounding it. What there is can be considered at about a 100 trillionth as dense as that of Earth. Mars has a very thin atmosphere (approx 0.6% as dense of that of Earth), enough to cause some problems but not really enough to provide atmospheric braking or make parachutes practical.

          A bigger issue with landing on Mars compared to the Moon is gravity. The gravity on the Moon is about 1/6th that of Earth, whereas on Mars the gravitational pull is about 4/10ths, which means much more upward force is needed to land softly, requiring larger rockets and more fuel. Mars’ gravity well is also the reason why it’s a one way trip.

  2. Come on, it’s not so hard to guess who will provide the spacecraft and problably the rocket too… A tronconic craft, designed to land on Mars by retrorockets ? SpaceX’s Dragon perhaps… ;)

    • yes, the research on this article has not been done well.
      “The problem with the 2016 launch is that Mars One hasn’t said who will be providing the spacecraft and rocket, and the launch date is really close on the horizon. As far as we know, none of the hardware has been tested either on Earth or on Mars.”
      They have signed up with a bunch of aerospace companies, They are going to use spacex falcon heavy and the dragon manned spacecraft.

    • Raphael and ya ya ya, now if only the author of the article had done her homework…. :) She never interviewed or even posed a single question to anyone in the project to my knowledge, she just makes uneducated guesses. We have several medical technicians, engineers, even current astronauts who have applied. Not to mention the seven year training program that will include full courses for two medical technicians, a geologist, and an exobiologist. The team will also receive an extensive education in maintenance and repair of the vehicles, habitats, and power systems. Future missions will bring better technology and more colonists versed in other needed professions. The first missions must be populated by people who will build the colony, not by the scientists that will come later. If the first colonists already have scientific backgrounds then that’s a welcome bonus.

    • Part I:

      No one (e.g., SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, etc.), including NASA, has a rocket ship capable of a manned mission to Mars.

      The SpaceX Dragon has only delivered supplies to the ISS – International Space Station, which is 240 miles from earth, and has never carried a crew. And, one of Dragon’s three resupply missions had to be saved by the ISS’s robotic arm. NASA is not letting SpaceX carry humans to the ISS because SpaceX is not safe enough or proven enough. Russia has the contract with NASA to transport crews to and from the ISS through 2016.

      You must not be familiar with NASA’s landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, which is called “7 minutes of terror” or hell, which NASA’s states was the most difficult landing ever attempted, much more difficult than landing on the moon. America’s Curiosity rocket ship had a total weight of 8,583 lbs., which includes the weight of the actual rover of 1,982 lbs. A manned rocket ship to Mars will have to weigh at least 50,000 lbs. and, most likely, much more. The method used to land the Curiosity will not work on a much heavier rocket ship. The Apollo lunar module weighed 33,212.64 lbs., which is 3.86 times heavier than the Curiosity spacecraft. The Apollo lunar module had food, water, and oxygen for about 4 days. The Apollo 11 rocket ship weighed about 100,000 lbs.

      The Curiosity rocket ship was traveling at 13,000 mph when it entered the Martian’s atmosphere and it had to be slowed to zero mph. A supersonic parachute capable of being deployed at Mach 2.2 was deployed, which slowed it to about 220 mph. Then they had to do a Sky crane landing because the Curiosity was too heavy to use the airbag landing system that was used for the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration landers. The entire Curiosity landing took 7 minutes and was the most complicated landing ever attempted. This methodology would not work on a spacecraft weighing 3.86 times more than the Curiosity.

      This is not the science fiction movie “Total Recall” or the “Angry Red Planet.”

      And, if I hear one more time that anyone, e.g., Space X, Virgin Galactic, including NASA has a spacecraft capable of a manned mission to Mars I will scream. That is a big fat lie!

      No one currently have a spaceship capable of a manned mission to Mars. NASA believes that if they can solve all the technical problems that they might be able to have a manned flight to Mars in the 2030s. But, that assumes that all technical issues can be solved, e.g., long term effects of deep space radiation and weightlessness, and other medical issues caused by prolonged stays in space. We have no proof that humans can live in deep space for more than 10 days, because it has never been done or tried.

      “While space is full of radiation, the earth’s magnetic field generally protects the planet and people in low earth orbit from these particles. However, once astronauts leave orbit, they are exposed to constant shower of various radioactive particles. With appropriate warning, astronauts can be shielded from dangerous radiation associated with solar flares. But there are also other forms of cosmic radiation that, for all intents and purposes, cannot be effectively blocked.”

      If you science fiction junkies would just read all of NASA literature, you might just stop throwing out the bull:

      ” Earlier this month, scientists, NASA officials, private space company representatives and other members of the spaceflight community gathered in Washington D.C. for three days to discuss all the challenges at the Humans to Mars (H2M) conference, hosted by the spaceflight advocacy group Explore Mars, which has called for a mission that would send astronauts in the 2030s.”

      “But the Martian dust devil is in the details, and there is still one big problem: We currently lack the technology to get people to Mars and back. An interplanetary mission of that scale would likely be one of the most expensive and difficult engineering challenges of the 21st century. Mars is pretty far away,” NASA’s director of the International Space Station, Sam Scimemi said during the H2M conference. “It’s six orders of magnitude further than the space station. We would need to develop new ways to live away from the Earth and that’s never been done before. Ever.”

      “There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there. A large part of the H2M summit involved panelists discussing the various obstacles to a manned Mars mission.”

      Please pay particular attention to this sentence:

      “There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there.”

      There are way too many science fiction junkies posting to this site. Beam me up Scotty!

      I am sure all you science fiction junkies know more than the scientists that were at the above NASA Humans to Mars (H2M) conference.

      Beam me up Scotty!

      • Part II

        Mars One seems to ignore all the data on the negative effects of long-term weightlessness and the potential effects of living on a planet where the gravity is much less than Earth’s. Mars gravity is 62% less than Earth’s.

        NASA believes based on data collected from the ISS – International Space Station and Mir space station that the human body cannot endure the negative effects of being without earth’s gravity for more than a year. There has been very little research on the subject because very few astronauts have stayed at the ISS – International Space Station for more than 6 months. Only two cosmonauts have stayed in space over a year at the Mir space station.

        The most significant negative effects caused by weightlessness are:

        1. Muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton (spaceflight osteopenia).
        2. Slowing of cardiovascular system functions
        3. Decreased production of red blood cells
        4. Balance disorders
        5. Weakening of the immune system.

        Lesser symptoms include fluid redistribution (causing the “moon-face” appearance typical in pictures of astronauts experiencing weightlessness), loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, and excess flatulence.

        Valeri Polyakov holds the record for the longest continuous stay in space on the Mir of 437 days between January 1994 and March 1995. He supposedly was able to walk to a chair and sit down after he was taken from the landing capsule, but there is no film footage of this event. Most footage shows the cosmonauts being put on stretchers.

        However, he retired from the cosmonaut corps that same year at the age of about 54. In his rare TV appearances he appears very “fragile.” Why would this once very robust athletic cosmonaut now look “fragile”?

        Many myths follow this record-breaker, largely because he is seen in public very rarely, and when he is filmed for space documentaries (filmmaker Dana Ranga referred to him as “fragile”) for sessions for the RFSA these days (such as his congratulatory video to the Mars500 crew), he is always sitting.

        In the precious few instances where he is photographed standing, has he been propped up? Can he walk? Is he crippled? Why does he not stride to podiums at state events of museum openings like Tereshkova (3 days in space), or other fellow cosmonauts of the Mir era?

        Why won’t the Roskosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) make public the 50-some-odd medical publications, based on experiments in space?

        What did long duration spaceflight truly to do this man’s body and mind, and why is data on that subject so very hard to find?

        Then there are the psychological problems were astronauts have stated that they did not think they could last 6 months without going insane.

        During his stay on Mir, Thagard, a physician and engineer who had flown four shuttle missions, repeatedly told ground controllers that he wanted to speak with his family and colleagues more than once a week, as he’d been doing, and that he felt isolated. Poor planning by NASA and the Russian space agency kept him from conducting most of his experiments, putting him at loose ends. He lost 13 pounds because he didn’t much like the Russian food—soups, jellied meats and fish. After returning to Earth, he told reporters that if the mission had been extended another three months, he might not have made it.

        Then there is the incident of the Mir space station in 1997, where commander Vasily Tsibliyev was physically exhausted and his mental health had deteriorated under the stress of living in that bizarre miniature world for more than four months. Vasily’s actions almost destroyed the Mir and unmanned supply ship from earth.

        Astronauts who have spent months aboard the Mir have told debriefers that psychological challenges were the toughest part of the mission, and said that a mission to Mars would fail unless these problems of confining people to small spaces can be fixed.

        “Russian cosmonaut Valery Ryumin says succinctly,

        “All the conditions necessary for murder are met if you shut two men in a cabin and leave them together for two months.”

        “He (Valeri Polyakov) stayed in orbit for so long to prove that a healthy mental state can be maintained for the duration of a manned mission to Mars – and when he disembarked back on Earth, he insisted on walking on his own to prove that this would be possible on Mars (see #5). But his psychological evaluations noted a marked deficiency in his emotional state and overall mood. He was observed to be much more morose than usual and easily irritated by simple questions.”

        Read more:
        Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

        NASA is planning for astronauts to stay longer at the ISS to study the long-term effects, but it has not happened yet.

        HOUSTON — NASA will shortly announce plans to double the mission duration of some astronaut expeditions to the International Space Station, NBC News has learned. Beginning as early as 2015, some of the astronauts and cosmonauts sent into orbit will remain there not the usual six months, but for a full year.

        “Even the current standard “duty tour” of six months in space is an operational accident with no rational medical basis. NASA doctors preferred about 4 months as the optimal mission duration, when station astronauts were transported on shuttle flights.

        Cosmonauts agreed. They reported growing fatigue in the final month or two of their half-year space sojourns.”

        So, after only 4 months in space, cosmonauts reported growing fatigue.

        So, what will Mars One astronauts feel like after being cramped in a small spaceship for 9 months? Will they even be able to walk onto Mars’ surface? No one knows!

        Now you are going to tell me about artificial gravity, which has not been invented – it is just a theory, except in Science Fiction movies – Beam me up Scotty.

        NASA has not been able to create artificial gravity in over 50 years of space exploration. Most likely, the gravity on Mars will be insufficient to stop these negative effects. Mars gravity is 62% less than Earth’s. So, anyone staying on Mars for more than a year will most likely die or have so little muscle and bone mass that they will not be able to do anything, so they will die.

        But, Mars One does not seem to be concerned about that. Why?

        Because it is a big Hoax!

        Beam me up Scotty!

        • Part III

          But, let’s assume that the Mars One scientists invent artificial gravity machines for their manned spaceship and huge inflatable 1,000 cubic meter habitats. And, then they build a huge spaceship with a huge living compartment so the astronauts don’t go stir crazy during the 6 to 9-month trip to Mars. And, then they make the first manned landing on Mars with the heaviest spaceship ever to land on Mars. Again, the heaviest object ever landed on Mars is the Curiosity rover which weighed 1,982 lbs.

          Then what?

          Let’s assume that the first Mars passengers are 2 to 4 very physically fit structural engineers with actual construction experience, e.g., building houses on earth. And, upon landing on Mars, they somehow find all the materials that were delivered on the two previous unmanned Mars One Missions.

          And, they somehow build one or two inflatable 1,000 cubic meter habitats equipped with the Mar One’s invented artificial gravity machines, which is a huge stretch.

          How long will that take? How long will they have to live in their spaceship while building the first habitat?

          I would love to see Bas Lansdorp build a mock version of his Mars One Colony near the Vostok Station in Antarctica, where the average temperature is minus 67 F. Build it in less than 3 months with only 4 people in space suits with air tanks good for about 6 hours before they must be refilled. It would not be possible; but, somehow it is magically possible on Mars according to Bas Lansdorp, a 21st century snake-oil salesman.

          Do we have any comparable event that has happened in outer space? No, but the ISS – International Space Station can be used to make the point.

          It took over 10 years and 31 shuttle missions to build the ISS – International Space Station, which weighs almost 925,000 lbs. at a cost of over $100 billion, which is only 230 miles above earth, which does not have artificial gravity.

          But let’s assume they get it built. Then What?

          What do you do for at least 16 hours per day or more when you are not sleeping on Mars for the rest of your life without going stir crazy? What do you do for 2 to 4 months without going stir crazy?

          You science fiction junkies must think that Bas Lansdorp’s Mars One colony will be like the Mars’ vacation colony in the science fiction movie “Total Recall,” with bars, restaurants, red-light district, etc.

          Again, a serious reality check is needed.

          Living at the Bas Lansdorp’s Mars One colony will be like living on a very cold (i.e., average temperature is minus 80 F) desert with lots of toxic razor sharp Martian dust and space radiation. There won’t be much to see from your habitat, assuming, it has windows.

          If you are lucky, you will be able to leave the habitat once a day, assuming you can generate sufficient oxygen for daily walks in huge cumbersome spacesuits. And, you will have to be resupplied with new spacesuits from earth frequently because the razor sharp Martian dust will shred current spacesuits in a relatively short time. Martian dust is most likely as abrasive as Moon Dust.

          NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust
          “These particles can wreak havoc on space suits and other equipment. During the Apollo 17 mission, for example, crewmembers Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Gene Cernan had trouble moving their arms during moonwalks because dust had gummed up the joints. “The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack’s boot,” Taylor says.”

          What will you do outside of the Mars One habitats? How far do you think you will be able to walk from the habitat or drive, assuming you have a rover that you somehow keep fully charged that doesn’t stop working because of Martian dust?

          You will be very bored walking on Mars within a few weeks, especially since you will not be able to travel that far. And, most likely all you will see is very flat desert like land.

          There are valid reasons for rotating the people on Mars back to earth within 6 months.

          Astronauts on the ISS are rotated back to earth within 6 months for both medical and psychological reasons. Imagine being locked up with one or two or three people for the 6 to 9 month trip to Mars in a small compartment and then staying on Mars for the rest of your life living in a small habitat. You won’t be able to use cell phones and most likely you will not get to talk to your loved ones on earth that often.

          Staying on Mars for more than 6 months is a fantasy because most likely you will be dead within the first 6 months or less because of the deep space radiation (e.g., solar wind, solar flares, solar radiation storms – big coronal mass ejections) and breathing Martian dust, which will cling to space suits and get brought into the habitats, just like moon dust got into the lunar landing modules during the Apollo missions. And, if that doesn’t kill you, you will run out of food, water and oxygen within the first six months, or less.

          Who knows what will happen if a huge Martian win storm hits the Mars One colony. What emergency backup will Bas Lansdorp provide?

          Why isn’t Bas Lansdorp going to Mars on the first manned flight?

          Mars One claims that they will use inflatable modular living habitats that will have 1,000 cubic meters of total living space each, which is 35,314.7 cubic feet, which is 2,982 more cubic feet of living space than at the ISS – International Space Station.

          Wow, that is really big.

          For comparative purposes, the ISS – International space station has a habitable living space of 32,333 cubic feet. And, the ISS weighs about 925,000 lbs. with a total cost of over $150 billion and it took over 10 years to build with 31 shuttle missions. But, Bas Lansdorp is somehow going to build huge inflatable habitats that don’t weigh much, but somehow have the tons of equipment needed for 4 people per habitat to live for years, e.g., huge solar panels, electric heaters, waste, air and water recycling equipment, etc. All this equipment weighs at least 100,000 lbs.; but Mars One is going to get it all to Mars in a few missions. And, you will have to have at least one backup system for every system, which means there will be at least 200,000 lbs. of equipment. You can’t get 200,000 lbs. of equipment to Mars in less than 5 missions. And, if the failure rate for unmanned missions is 50%; it would take at least 10 missions. The total cost of Mars One is now over $20 billion.

          Guffaw, guffaw, and guffaw! Beam me up Scotty!

          Mars One makes it sound like once the first astronauts gets to Mars, they will just hook up an air pump, and have fully complete 1,000 cubic meter habitats cable of protecting humans from deep space radiation, with running water, showers and toilets, heaters, gravity, etc. Everything will be ready to sustain humans. Too funny!

          What is funnier is that you Science Fiction Junkies have swallowed this Bas Lansdorp snake-oil pig swill hook line and sinker.

          Then Mars One make another insane claim that their spaceship will feature less than 20 cubic meters of living space per astronaut. Really, how much less per astronaut?

          The Apollo Command/Service Module was a truncated cone measuring 10 feet 7 inches (3.2 meters) tall and having a diameter of 12 feet 10 inches (3.9 m) with a volume of 12.48 cubic meters or 4.16 cubic meters per astronaut. I can’t begin to imagine being confined in a spaceship that small with 2 other astronauts for a 6 to 9 month trip to Mars. As a comparison, the entire Apollo 11 mission took 8 days.

          Then Mars One makes another insane pointless comment:

          “By comparison, the explorers that sailed with Columbus across the Atlantic in 1492 had living space on board of less than 10 cubic meters per person.”

          Yes, maybe their cabin spaces were very small; but, they could go up on the deck and walk around. The decks were at least 50 feet long with a 16 foot beam. Sure they were cramped on the deck, but, they could walk around and get fresh air and sun or whatever weather was happening; and they could go up on deck in shifts, i.e., not everyone went up to the deck at the same time. And, these ships could carry up to 180 tons or 360,000 lbs. of cargo. And, the travel time was much less; for example, it only took the Mayflower 66 days to get from England to Cape Code, NE. Assuming a 30-day month on average, the trip to Mars will take from 180 to 270 days, which is from 3 to 6 times longer.

          Then there is the fact that unless you are resupplied (e.g., water, food, oxygen) from earth every six months, you will most likely die on Mars. The ISS is resupplied at least twice a year with over 10,000 lbs. of supplies, e.g., water, oxygen, food, toothpaste, soap, clean clothes, etc.

          So, Mars One will have to be lunching resupply ships from earth every few months. But, you would have to lunch 2 or 3 resupply ships each time to ensure at least one of them makes it to Mars because of the failure rate of unmanned missions to Mars, which is over 50%; and the length of time required to get to Mars.

          “Every 26 months there is an opportunity to send a vehicle from Earth to the planet Mars along an efficient, low-energy trajectory. The trip can take six months or more. Probes to Mars often fail; as of July 2012, the success rate was 47 percent.”

          I will address the nonsense claims about growing food and finding water on Mars in the next post.

          Anyway, a serious reality check is needed by you science fiction junkies, including Bas Lansdorp.

          Beam me up Scotty!

          • George, as I have said before, I agree with you. However, you are misprepresenting MarsOne in a few areas. They plan on growing food there, not having it supplied from here. I assume human feces will continually be mixed with Martian soil in some kind of smelly greenhouse to create organically useful soil.

            They believe they can reclaim oxygen from subterranean ice. They believe the rover will have pre-assembled their living quarters before they arrive.

            I don’t see any of that happening, but still, it is their plan.

            The moon landings cost 60 billion in 1960′s dollars. No way this is done for less.

  3. Raphael,

    Landing on the Moon, and landing on Mars are two entirely different challenges. With the Moon, you are landing in a near-vacuum. With Mars, there’s “just enough” atmosphere to make retro-rockets a challenge, but not “quite” enough atmosphere for parachutes to work well.

    This is why NASA used the Sky Crane to place Curiosity on Mars. That’s a one-ton rover. Trying to land a module weighing several tons with food, equipment, water, etc is going to present significant challenges.

  4. Good article, Amy. This whole Mars One venture deserves the heaps of skepticism it is getting from the science world for the audacity and scope of its goals. However I think they will still succeed even in their failure. By proclaiming their plans publicly in a serious forum they continue to chip away at the paradigm the planetary exploration is exclusive to only governments and large institutions like NASA. The more private ventures (Inspiration Mars, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Golden Spike, etc) that dip their toes in the waters of space exploration (even if it only amounts to grand plans) only helps to grow public enthusiasm and influences potential investors who might flip from waiting to invest to actively investing in a private mission. Mars One’s idea is likely to ambitious to succeed but the fact that they are swinging for the fences is bound to inspire and encourage the next group to come forward and try a little harder to succeed where Mars One fails. At least I hope so.

    • It doesn’t surprise me that you have no replies. Science will ever march onward. Culture needs to catch up.

  5. SpaceX grasshopper gives me confidence in retrorockets. Acknowledging unknown fuel considerations, packetized drops may be necessary. Much to be done for sure, lets encourage such departures from reason insofar as they challenge the boundaries of our considerations. Thanks Amy for your provoking challenges.

      • I am not sure what you think you are proving by showing a video of SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket lifting off and going up 820 feet hovering in place and then returning to Earth. The entire event took 54 seconds according to my stopwatch and it hovered for less than 3 seconds.

        It took 26 seconds to achieve an altitude of 820 feet. So that is 31.53 feet per second or 21.497727 miles per hour. For a rocket ship to achieve escape velocity from earth, it must achieve a speed of 25,000 mph or 11.2 km/s. So again, why are you showing this video about the Grasshopper going 31.53 feet per second up to a height of 820 feed? What do you think it proves?

        I think the original idea was that the Grasshopper would act as the first stage of a multiple state rocket and the first two stages would be reusable.

        But, it hasn’t worked as planned.

        As soon as you increase the thrust of the first and second stages and send them many miles above earth, things get somewhat complicated, which is why NASA has never tried to do it. The first two stages still fall into the ocean and have to be recovered by large ships and it takes over a year to refurbish them for reuse, assuming they can be refurbished.

        Usually, the first two stages are too damaged and beyond repair to be returned to earth on their own rocket power, so they fall into the ocean. As far as I know, the first and second stages of the Space X rockets have not been reusable in the three ISS resupply missions completed by SpaceX.

        The SpaceX Dragon has only delivered supplies to the ISS – International Space Station, which is 240 miles from earth, and has never carried a crew. And, one of Dragon’s three resupply missions had to be saved by the ISS’s robotic arm.

        NASA is not letting SpaceX carry humans to the ISS because SpaceX is not safe enough or proven enough. Russia has the contract with NASA to transport crews to and from the ISS through 2016.

        Then you seem to be overlooking the fact that no one (e.g., SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, etc.), including NASA, has a rocket ship capable of a manned mission to Mars. NASA does not believe they will have that rocket until the 2030s, assuming all technical difficulties can be solved.

        If you science fiction junkies would just read all of NASA literature, you might just stop throwing out the bull:

        “May 31, 2013″

        ” Earlier this month, scientists, NASA officials, private space company representatives and other members of the spaceflight community gathered in Washington D.C. for three days to discuss all the challenges at the Humans to Mars (H2M) conference, hosted by the spaceflight advocacy group Explore Mars, which has called for a mission that would send astronauts in the 2030s.”

        “But the Martian dust devil is in the details, and there is still one big problem: We currently lack the technology to get people to Mars and back. An interplanetary mission of that scale would likely be one of the most expensive and difficult engineering challenges of the 21st century. Mars is pretty far away,” NASA’s director of the International Space Station, Sam Scimemi said during the H2M conference. “It’s six orders of magnitude further than the space station. We would need to develop new ways to live away from the Earth and that’s never been done before. Ever.”

        “There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there. A large part of the H2M summit involved panelists discussing the various obstacles to a manned Mars mission.”

        Please pay particular attention to this sentence:

        “There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there.”

        There are way too many science fiction junkies posting to this site.

        Beam me up Scotty!

        • You are 100% right, but people will argue with you.

          I am fascinated by MarsOne, but realize it is a pipe dream. People often refer to the moon landing and the settlers who came to america as “once called impossible.”

          America had air, food and water, and people already lived here! And even then, most of the colonists died the first winter.

          Comparing going to the moon with going to Mars is like comparing driving to Krogers to kayaking from New York to antartica – and then living there!

  6. Shades of ‘Truman Show’ come to mind, crossed with ‘The Red Planet’.

    I don’t want to be the negative nelly, but this is a stretch at best. This will test folks physically, emotionally and mentally to the extremes. Once you go, you can’t come home. EVER. So, if you want out, there will only be one way to do so. I think this is a recipe for a bad outcome.

    Folks will have to re-evaluate what is precious to them and what isn’t. Basically, everything (and everyone) needs to be deemed as ‘disposable’ and will bring some sharp moral choices into focus.

    I’d get it if it was to go there and come back – that would be arduous enough – but to stay there at this point in time is not a good idea. Before we do this, find some folks that don’t mind being placed into a tube, away from outside human contact for a few years, and then put them into another enclosure for several more, make it impossible for them to get any new supplies for 2 years, give them some diseases, break an arm or two, rupture an appendix, have one have to euthanize another and then tell me they are ready to do this.

    I’m concerned folks really haven’t thought this through. This is way different than the ‘Biosphere’.

    • No worries. I’m sure the Massachusetts Bay Colonists met the same type of criticism, but that didn’t stop them from founding Boston.

      Our nation used to be one made up of explorers and adventurers, now it’s mostly naysayers. I’m not worried. You can’t stop us from exploring.

      • Thanks Eric! At least there is one person who isn’t afraid of the unknown here.

        David, believe me when I say this has already been discussed to death on the forums for the Mars One applicants (I’m one of them). Like many posters on many articles I’ve read in the past, you are arrogant enough to believe that no one but you can see that there is a very small chance of success in this mission and that we are giving up everything and everyone we know to make a one way trip to Mars. However, if there was no chance of survival then I wouldn’t have signed up.

        There is a chance that the first manned mission and probably one following may fail. But the first modules will be sent with materials only so that the reentry system can be evaluated without risking lives and we can learn how to make the landings easier with the knowledge gained from them in future landings. If the first manned missions should fail catastrophically then my soul would rest easy knowing that the next missions have learned from our mistakes. Great advances are not made without great sacrifices. It appears that many of you think that the space program has been developed without its fatalities, with the exception of the shuttle incidents. I encourage you to read the history of space exploration and educate yourselves.

        • Mohs, I think the people who are going to attempt this are very brave, and I hope and pray they succeed. I will subscribe to the pay-per-view to watch.

          Having said that, I am with the crowd that believes we are way underestimating how hard this will be.

          Massachusetts Bay had plants, animals, water, and other humans already lived there. Winter was only 25% of the time. Even then, nearly every colonist died the first year due to the harsh conditions.

          I just don’t see how this can work with 21st century technology. The subterranean ice will be pretty far north. As if Mars were not cold enough already, imagine being near the north pole.

          If we dropped 4 people in the Middle of Alaska in winter, could they survive? I don’t know. Mars will be about 1000 times harsher than Alaska.

          I am fascinated by this, and I am rooting for it, but I’m afraid our brave colonists will not survive very long.

          People need to stop comparing it to going to the moon or coming to America. It will be WAY harder than that.

  7. It seems obvious this can’t work on the planned schedule. The real question is if the people proposing it are naive optimists or if it’s part of a scam to get early funding that somehow will be lost.

    Even if the project somehow does work and sends people to Mars, how long until viewers get bored and the astronauts will be told that, sorry, the supply ships will end because there is no longer any money available? I suppose the final episodes could be quite popular as the people on Mars kill each other to conserve the last air and food…

  8. I can only imagine the horror of having to watch these people realize they are going die, even after making it and landing safely…to find they are only 4km away from the pre-dropped cache of supplies. 4km in the big scheme of landing on another planet is infinitesimal, but for the humans that wouldn’t be able to hold enough life support to travel 4km away to set up their camp, it would be tragic.
    They’d have to be pretty sure on alot of aspects of this mission for it to even have a small chance of not being a televised execution.

    • they are counting on the rover to get everything to one spot. If the rover and trailer do not work, you are 100% correct.

    • Why is it that the most common posters on these sites assume that we’re going to Mars in t-shirts and jeans sitting around a campfire waiting for supplies? Air and water will be farmed from the soil. The water content has been confirmed through the Curiosity rover to be at least 2%, more than enough to supply drinking water and breathable oxygen for the colony. We will be setting up farms (possibly hydroponic at first) in underground facilities which will be constructed before humans arrive. Water and air will also be stockpiled prior to human occupation at the previously constructed site of habitation.

      As far as children go, until there is a stable environment with a large enough gene pool and advanced medical facilities there will be no children born on Mars. Sterilization has been discussed as a viable solution.

      • Mohs, I can’t speak for the others, but I understand all that. I have read every word about MarsOne. I understand the whole idea of getting water from subterranean ice, growing food, etc.

        The plans, in my opinion, while technically feasible, are overly optimistic.

        And nobody is talking about cost. 4 Billion? It took 60 Billion to get to the moon, and that was in 1960s dollars. One shuttle launch cost a billion.

        I don’t see how this is done for less than 100 Billion. No amount of advertising and reality TV income is going to raise that kind of money.

        Like I said in my other post, I am really rooting for this, but… I just don’t see it happening.

          • I am not sure what point you are trying to make with the lunching of the India’s Mangalyaan, which is a small unmanned rocket that weighs 2,980 lbs. and cost $73.5 million.

            The Mangalyaan is not a manned mission to Mars. Mangalyaan’s cost of $73.5 million does not include the cost of the lunch facilities at the Sriharikota space center, which cost hundreds of $ millions, maybe a $ billion to build. Mars One does not own launch facilities, tracking facilities or equipment.

            Actually, Mars One is one huge scam that only a science fiction junkie could possibly believe.

            India lunched a Mars Orbiter Mission called MOM on November 5, 2013 that will reach Mars on Sept. 24, 2014. The spacecraft is called the Mangalyaan and it weighs 2,980 lbs. The Mangalyaan will just orbit Mars. A rover is not being landed on Mars, like America’s Curiosity rover. America’s Curiosity rocket ship had a total weight of 8,583 lbs., which includes the weight of the actual rover of 1,982 lbs.

            The Mangalyaan is not a manned mission and is not capable of carrying humans.

            So, why are you talking about it? It is not relevant to anything!

            And, it has less than a 50/50 chance of being successful because at least 50% or more of all unmanned missions to Mars have failed. The success rate is 47%.

            “Every 26 months there is an opportunity to send a vehicle from Earth to the planet Mars along an efficient, low-energy trajectory. The trip can take six months or more. Probes to Mars often fail; as of July 2012, the success rate was 47 percent.”

            To give you a perspective on a manned mission to Mars, let’s look at the Apollo missions to the Moon with a crew of three. The Apollo spacecraft weighed over 100,000 lbs. and only needed fuel, water, food, oxygen, etc. for 10 days. It required a huge Saturn V rocket to lift it into space. The cost of one Saturn V rocket, including lunch, is $1.18 billion in 2013 dollars. The entire Apollo program had a cost of over $100 billion. Each Apollo mission cost about $18 billion. But, that was just to go to the Moon; it will cost much more to land a man on Mars. Much, Much, Much More!

            Don’t forget that the Moon is 238,900 miles from earth; the closest Mars will be to earth for the period April 8, 2014 to Oct. 12, 2020 is 35,800,000 miles the furthest 57,400,000 miles, or Mars is from 150 to 240 times further away from earth than the moon during that period.

            A manned Mars spacecraft will need fuel, water, food, oxygen, etc. for at least nine months to a year or more, which is from 18 to 36 times or more than was needed to go to the moon. And, this assumes that somehow there have been previous missions to Mars to deposit hundreds of tons of equipment and supplies that will be needed when the first manned spaceship arrives. And, this also assumes that the supplies and equipment all land in the same area and that the manned spaceship will also land in that area, which is highly unlikely. And, this also assumes that all the supplies land without being damaged. Also, not sure how supplies of water and food will be protected from Mars’ radiation so they will be safe for human consumption after lying on the surface for a year or more.

            But, you science fiction junkies don’t care about reality.

            And, there is very little if any water on Mars. It is not like you can land on Mars and go dig a hole and have drinking water. You will not be able to land on Mars and extract that water, assuming you can even find it if it actually does exist. You will not be able to grow anything on Mars because of deep space radiation. There is almost no oxygen on Mars and you won’t be able to extract it from the Martian atmosphere. Anyone making it to Mars will need to be resupplied from earth at least two or three times a year, or they will die – and that is not possible right now. And, the most likely they will die anyway from the radiation, freezing temperatures and dust on Mars within the first 3 months.

            This is not the science fiction movie “Total Recall.”

            And, if I hear one more time that anyone, e.g., Space X, Virgin Galactic, including NASA has a spacecraft capable of a manned mission to Mars I will scream.

            No one currently have a spaceship capable of a manned mission to Mars. NASA believes that if they can solve all the technical problems that they might be able to have a manned flight to Mars in the 2030s. But, that assume that all technical issues can be solved, e.g., long term effects of deep space radiation and weightlessness, and other medical issues caused by prolonged stays in space. We have no proof that humans can live in deep space for more than 10 days, because it has never been done or tried.

            Maybe if NASA can build a space station in High Earth Orbit – 22,236 miles above earth, they can determine if humans can survive in deep space for more than two years without dying. The ISS – International Space Station is about 240 miles above earth and protected by the earth’s magnetic Field. We actually do not know if that can be done. The longest time anyone has stayed in LEO – Low Earth Orbit was 437 days and 18 hours, which is how long Valeri Polyakov stayed on the Mir Space Station in 1994-1995. Valeri suffered bone and muscle loss, but eventually recovered, so Russia tells us.

            If you science fiction junkies would read all of NASA literature, you would know the following:

            ” Earlier this month, scientists, NASA officials, private space company representatives and other members of the spaceflight community gathered in Washington D.C. for three days to discuss all the challenges at the Humans to Mars (H2M) conference, hosted by the spaceflight advocacy group Explore Mars, which has called for a mission that would send astronauts in the 2030s.”

            But the Martian dust devil is in the details, and there is still one big problem: We currently lack the technology to get people to Mars and back. An interplanetary mission of that scale would likely be one of the most expensive and difficult engineering challenges of the 21st century. Mars is pretty far away,” NASA’s director of the International Space Station, Sam Scimemi said during the H2M conference. “It’s six orders of magnitude further than the space station. We would need to develop new ways to live away from the Earth and that’s never been done before. Ever.”

            “There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there. A large part of the H2M summit involved panelists discussing the various obstacles to a manned Mars mission.”

            There are way too many science fiction junkies posting to this site.

            Beam me up Scotty.

          • comparing the indian unmanned rocket with a Mars mission is like comparing a moped scooter to a fighter jet.

  9. Regardless of all other considerations, including the substantial ehtical ones of watching a programme where the people have to die, if they try this, Mars is contaminated for ever. There goes the chance of exploring a planetary environment uncontaminated by organics from humans. No chance of looking for prior signs of life or ejecta from a meteor colliding with earth.

  10. You left out at least one major flaw in their plan: they want to make a REALITY SHOW featuring people with “a sense of humour and the ability to work well with others” – that is the biggest untested part of this plan. That’s the opposite of the requirements for being in a reality show.

  11. I also wonder, would they make it a condition to be allowed to go, to be sterilized first?

    The ethical issues that come with creating a child on Mars with nothing but a bleak existence and no hope of connection to the rest of humanity isn’t trivial. Especially since everyone on Mars would have been volunteers, except that child.

    • Re: ethical issues of children on mars. You’re so out of touch with actuality. If one be so brave, progination (sic) on mars, success or failure is one of the few “devine” rights life forms have. Your comments reveal a philosophy in which life supports policy rather than policy supports life.

      Many of these comments reveal a conception that “one way” means they’re going there to die at the end of the season. Any who are so bold as to set forth upon the venture do so for the ultimate extent of themselves. There will be no returns until a critical mass is reached in which an industrialized launch system is remotely constructed (at expense of available resourcefulness.) The intent is to survive, prosper, make life for one’s self. Regardless of this campaign (anecdote or not), the reach is Life on Mars. Bless every one of you hopeful applicants. Mars may become the next seat of power in our system for my friends, it is the brave who inherit the Earth, or in this case, our worlds.

        • I think the colonists SHOULD have kids. The whole idea is to create a new society, and that world will be the only world they know. Assuming they can set up a life that works. I think kids in the first few years would be a mistake, because it will take 100% of their energy just to survive, and being a parent is a full-time job. Good luck, Mohs. I do not mean to discourage you.

    • if a child is born there, that will be the only life they know. they won’t miss earth or the life we have here.

      parents make decisions all the time that affect kids. While I have no desire to live there or raise kids there, others will jump at the chance.

  12. Mars One may be successful at the only thing they are actually trying to achieve– making a reality show about people who are willing to go to Mars going through astronaut training. I think the rest of the talk is just to make the show more popular by pretending its for real.

  13. Skepticism would have prevented us getting to the moon, or for Columbus to sail. That’s the nature of adventure. The risks are obvious, the rewards imaginable. Is it dangerous? Yea, that’s obvious from the one way ticket and our experience with space so far. What if they make it?

    • Comparing Columbus to Mars One is apples and rocks.

      The boats already existed. The “new world” already had air, plants, animals, and building materials. People already lived there, for crying out loud. There was nothing new, except how far they had to sail.

      Comparing Apollo to Mars one is apples and kidney pie.

      The moon was a couple days away, and it still took $26 Billion dollars between 196x and 1973 (in 1960s/70s dollars). There is NO WAY this costs only $6 billion. Giants stadium costs a billion. I cannot imagine this costing less than $60 billion. They are off by a factor of 10, I am guessing.

      The moon was a short round trip, and all they did when they got there was collect rocks. They didn’t have to create a life.

      I am rooting for this to work, but I don’t see it happening in my lifetime (I’m 53). I would subscribe to the reality channel, but about 100-500 million others would have to as well to pay for this.

  14. The ethical problem is the one that concerns me most, at this stage. Mars One are looking for psychologically stable people. But at the same time, given that there’s no return ticked, these individuals apparently

    - either don’t quite grasp the full scope of what they’re volunteering for
    - or else they deem everything and everyone in their lives on Earth dispensable.

    Isn’t that a contradiction in itself? Would anyone in their right minds ever do such a thing? Can those who do possibly be in their right minds? I’m not so sure…

    • Many of the Apollo astronauts say that they gave themselves a 50% chance of living or dying. They are pretty low odds. You could argue they weren’t in their right minds. The same goes for many explorers. Obviously to do something different you have to be a little different.

  15. Several commenters have likened the hardships that would be faced by the first Mars settlers to the first colonies established by the English in North America.

    The Jamestown colony was the first that was successful after many failures. In the same year that Jamestown was established (it came very close to failure) another set of colonists set up a colony known as Popham in the present day state of Maine. Well, after one Maine winter the survivors had enough. Using materials they gathered in the surrounding forest, the survivors built an ocean going vessel, packed up and went back to England.

    As for Jamestown, after their first winter the survivors packed up and set sail, but before they had left sight of land they met an unexpected relief vessel from England and decided to turn around. The visitors were stunned at the poverty and emaciated condition of the Jamestown survivors.

    For a Mars colony return is not going to happen if things don’t work out. No building a rocket from the rocks, no unexpected relief vessels. The only advantage they will have over the English colonists is that they won’t have to fight with a native population. But then there won’t be any natives to help them survive.

    • That is true, but the Jamestown settlers had an ability to do something that the Mars One people never will.If someone in Jamestown got tired of the walls they are surrounded by they can walk around the settlement or outside it and get some air and enjoy themselves. The Mars One colonists will never get that chance. That really will be the biggest issue how can you sit in a box for the next 40 or 50 years. We really need more technology before we do this. Perfect self contained habits that can survive by themselves, terraforming, a easy way to transport both ways on demand or at least every 3-4 months instead of 26, even better would be some way of building and synthesising things out of basic materials. Having to wait months for a need medicine especially with a small population will mean death. Even better think of martian storms we send that stuff every 26 months, 5-6 months to get there, so 31-32 months between delivers. what if a storm whips up? that’s 3 months or more they have to wait for supplies cause if you drop it in the storm it can go anywhere. That’s 3 years between supply drops. Anyone who needs something they didn’t bring will die from it before we can help.

  16. This may end up to be moot. If Comet 2013 A1 hits Mars in 2014, at 56k/s and a couple of kilometers in diameter, the dust it could whips up could make landing, even unmanned craft, impossible for years. That might push back their timeline enough to let technology catch up.

  17. This article seems naive about life itself. The likelihood of things going “horribly wrong” is exactly the same on mars as it is on earth. Death, being totally unavoidable, will happen to everyone after one of two things: 1. A terrible accident. Or 2. Prolonged suffering. That’s the beauty of this mission. A one way ticket means any gruesome Martian scenario you can think of means only one thing: Mission Accomplished!

  18. It isn’t all that dire. If we look at the troubles with the article, I think these stand out:

    - “Mars One says it will use retrorocket (rockets that fire to slow the spacecraft for a soft touchdown) and no parachute to land its crew on Mars. That’s a method that’s never been done.”

    This was developed and suggested for exactly the Space-X crafts we see depicted in Mars One illustrations. The “Red Dragon” and “Ice Dragon” crafts can land a SpaceX capsule and a ton of load (say, 4 astronauts) up to 1.5 km under the martian “geode”, IIRC. (You can all google it, it’s from NASAs conferences on possible future Mars missions.) You need that much atmosphere and extra brake time to do it.

    I.e. the norther plain is a prime landing estate, since it is lower than that.

    You do need the Super-Dracos engines, i.e. the finished manned capsule. They are ready as such, final tests done, but not mounted and tested in position during their dual use pad abort scenario.

    You also need to verify the simulations that say you can fire into the hypervelocity aerostream without destabilizing the descending craft. That test can be done from LEO, I take it.

    - “Only the Russian Soyuz is currently able to take humans into space, and that’s not a spacecraft equipped to land on Mars.”

    This is historically wrong. The current Shenzhou craft is capable of that and has demonstrated it many times. In fact I believe a 3-person crew is going up again later this year.

    It is also technically wrong. The current cargo Dragon (and likely even the ATV & HTV) is _able_ to launch humans, the cargo Dragon is also able to return them, and Musk has mentioned that possibility. The seats and the short term climate system are ready, I believe.

    You won’t like it though since without SuperDracos you don’t have any pad abort capability.

    - “nor did they say what levels of funding they have secured.”

    But later the article goes into how you need a revenue stream, not funding. I agree on the problems of leveling revenues against development. But it is inherent in all similar endeavors, so presumably solvable in many cases.

    But in reality I think the project has more problems than the article had. 2016 _is_ a short time, especially if you need abort and descent test missions. On the other hand SpaceX is more motivated than ever to shortcircuit the Congress holding the commercial crew back until SLS is able to assume its role.

  19. This was just a sci-fi novel called Winning Mars by Michael M Jones.
    One way trip to Mars funded by a reality show.

  20. Their Olympics coverage model will fail to spin the sort of revenue they’re looking for. Sure, we’ll all watch the landing and maybe the first few days, but Survivor:Mars for three years? You’ve got to be kidding me. Within a month Mars One will be moved off the networks and onto the same cable channel that sells the slicer/dicer/three-way splicer.

  21. Not surprisingly there seems to be many problems with the Mars One project but should they just give up? The tone of this article seems to suggest that they should.

    I think it’s important to remember that at the beginning of the Apollo programme it wasn’t very feasible either. Initially Apollo planned to use a “Direct Ascent” method to get to the Moon. The cost and unwieldy size made it totally unfeasible. But they didn’t just say “Oh well, its not practical, it can’t be done”? No, they kept working on it and solved all the problems in the long run.

    And when they had the tragic deaths of Apollo 1 and the near deaths of Apollo 13 did they say “Oh were playing with people’s lives here, we should abandon this foolhardy pie in the sky? No, and so it is with Mars One. As long as they are safety conscious and methodical they should continue to try and solve the fascinating problems they face. Apollo 13 ended up like an early version of a reality TV show. Many people were glued to their radios or TV to see if the astronauts would survive or not. Nobody saw that as unethical or morbid.

    The Apollo astronauts were test pilots so it was their job to take calculated risks. A very high percentage of test pilots have died over the years. We accept that because it comes with the territory. Its just the same with anyone who ventures into space. They are in the same field as a test pilot. Space exploration is still in its infancy and to think that deaths aren’t going to happen is naïve. But like Apollo and the test pilots, they should continue to responsibly push the boundaries.

    For the Mars One team, criticism will be an important part of the learning curve but they should not give up. Even if they fail, much will be learned by their efforts.

  22. I find Amy’s article really reasoned and objective.

    For me the worst offender in the whole MarsOne plan, is the highly improbable, far from certain funding and the whole funding plan, after they supposedly land people on Mars. And comparing the dangers facing MarsOne to the dangers faced by other space missions, is really apples v. oranges. Cause when Apollo 13 was nearly lost in space for instance, NASA didn’t say to the astronauts ‘Sorry guys, but we can’t help you, we closed down mission control because TV ratings were bad and we don’t have any more money’. They were with them all the way, no matter what, so that mission had real chances of making it through back home.

    Going to Mars one-way, having a whole dedicated mission control and support behind you with already allocated funding to send you resupplies and more crew is one thing. That’s a mission I’d consider supporting. Going to Mars one-way, with only hoping that any future funding will come through so that your resupply ship might come eventually, is another.

    • Good points. Absolutely.

      I retort that NASA never had to rely on ratings to fund impending missions. By your suggestion, the mission would launch if there were enough people watching it but it could be canceled even while people were in transit. After that, your argument falls farther away from probable. You could probably make a ton of money in fiction with the right character development. I’d buy that book.

    • just to be clear, i find the idea very compelling, but i want to know how they will generate electricity. Wind obviously won’t work because it would be too heavy to move, and it would mean too many walks outside the hab for maintenance. Nuclear won’t work either, because they only intend to bring seven people and there is zero chance in the next ten or twenty years to drop a reactor on another planet that won’t kill humans with incidental radiation. The mars one website itself alludes to hydroponic LED growing of food – but it does not address the energy needs. Solar panels are both too heavy and too vulnerable to Martian dust to be cost effective. I REALLY want this to work, but I think they need to extend the timeline by about fifty years before people take it seriously. That doesn’t mean we CANNOT do it. It means we need to try harder – like, start in Antarctica trying to grow food.

  23. It’s never been done before is always a true statement before it’s been done. Sometimes the obvious must be stated.

    The Mars One plan has flaws that make it a suicide mission, but those flaws can be fixed. What makes the plan feasible is they are talking with the right people. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel.

    Funding: The reality show format is a known factor. We can assume they will not get superbowl commercial prices of $6m per minute nor even American idol $1m per minute rates. But it’s certain they could get $300k per minute for 10 to 15 minutes of commercials per hour. Minus production costs that gives them about $2m to $3m profit per episode. Their funding requirements are about $12m per week over ten years. So they’d need to air 4 to 6 episodes per week which is certainly doable. Fewer if people actually care about a new age of humanity and viewership could demand higher commercial rates.

    Landing: It’s not just rockets. Aerobraking will be used, but not parachutes. This is why the Mars One lander is wider than a standard Dragon. Elon is trying to get NASA to pay for some test flights, but if not, the earth’s upper atmosphere can be used for simulation and testing.

    The main problem with the Mars One mission is fixable. They depend too much on equipment sent from earth and not enough ISRU. Having only one backup life support system is death if both break down. Sending four colonists makes no sense when you can send a dozen for less cost than they propose. Those dozen should be people with experience making things including at least one chemist and one machinist.

    They need power, but that’s easy, so we should oversupply them that. Baking water out of the dirt will require some of that power. Water and power gives you oxygen and buffer gas. Leaving only food. They will be able to grow some immediately and will be able to increase production over time. But we must assume we have to provide complete nutrition until we know otherwise. That would cost $56m per colonist per year (based on $195m for 2500kg)

    The sealed environments of linked Dragons while doable is not a good long term solution. They have indicated they would produce more habitation space locally. The issue is environmental. Will the colonists they send know how to deal with contamination? They must send people that can, with both experience and tools. However, they will have the entire earth for knowledge backup.

    It is a big challenge, but it certainly can be done. We risked more in the 1960s with much less knowledge and vacuum tubes.

  24. Note funding limits the number of colonists they could support.

    If it costs a million a week per colonist for support and they make $12m/wk. then a dozen colonists would be all they could send. It would be really important for those dozen to have the right skills to produce infrastructure before sending more.

    One person could have all the skills required for survival but not enough hands (or eyes and feet for getting raw materials.) A full industrial ecology requires about five dozen colonists. They only need the skills to produce the designs. The designs themselves will come from the earth until they start to take over that for themselves.

    A machinist can make anything (given a starter set of tools including more tools of greater scale) but can’t design everything (although a lot.)

    A chemist has the advantage that the elements on the periodic chart are constant for the chemicals that matter for survival and that all are found on mars.

  25. Solar panels are both too heavy and too vulnerable to Martian dust to be cost effective.

    Thin film solar panels are about a kg/m2. On mars thin film solar panels will produce 1 kW/2kg. Mars One intends to send 3000 m2 of panels (we can assume distributed over several landers) producing 1.5 mW-h.

    Some of that power will be used for easily extracted methane from the atmosphere. This becomes fuel for light weight electric generator motors.

    This means they could have more than 1.5 mW-h. even at night and even dealing with dust. They should send more because power is essential to industry. Power is the easy problem.

  26. Josh correctly points to another flaw in the Mars One plan, but that is also easily fixed. We do not need terraforming or more technology to fix it.

    What they need is a tractor with the proper implements. They could fit the parts for two on a single lander. It would take less than a day to assemble both.

    This would allow them to rapidly increase their habitat space. In a few months they would have large mansions and malls with enough space to get lost in.

    After power, we should not neglect equipment that allows large scale mining and construction. One additional $195m lander greatly increases their survival comfort.

  27. If this mission ever gets under way, mark my words, the astronauts will go insane. This is something that has never been done in the history of the human race. These people will be completely isolated (not to mention cramped) for several decades, the rest of their lives. There is no hope of seeing Earth again, we have no idea how a human being will react when they realize they are stranded for life on another world.

    Before someone mentions the space station or Apollo, those guys planned to come home, which they did and continue to do. They could see the earth out the window.

    These Mars one folks will truly be alone.

  28. Seems like fool’s errand to land humans on Mars as permanent settlers ‘coz:

    1. How can one could survive for rest of his life of about 40-50 years inside a hab or box ?
    2. How sure they are about the vegetation would actually grow in such harsh environment ?
    3. What about the radiation due to Sun, especially ultraviolet – Mars has very thin atmosphere as compared to Earth’s & has no ozone protection layer ?
    4. How sure are they about the ground on Mars – maybe beneath the thin layer of martian dust, mars could be icy planet rather than rocky. How stable could this icy ground be for permanent settlement ?
    5. We have evidenced the giant storms on Mars several times powerful than the largest hurricane on Earth – do these martian settlers have any plan if their hab is destroyed by such storm in practical ?

  29. Technically I think all the problems yu list can be solved, radiation is solved by pushing soil over the living space a meter or two of rock is enough of a radiation shield. If you send people who are about 50 years old, they will have a a maybe 30 year life time and can accept more radiation per year than a 25 year old could for the same life time limit. The buried settlement kind of solves the storm problem too, two meters of rock makes for a nice wind screen.

    To real problem is cost. They have under estimated it by a factor of 10x or 20x. They will need to pre-supply the mission with many landings and test gear like soil moving tractors and backhoes and green houses and roll-out solar cells

    In my opinion they ONLY way to send humands to Mars is with a one-way trip. Not only is in easier but why are you going otherwise, just to do an Apollo style “plant the flag and leave” stunt?

    But funding will keep this mission on the ground until some national government adopts the mission, perhaps Iran, China, or who knows?

    • Another possibility for radiation shielding: lava tubes. We’ve seen evidence for their existence on Mars; and, seemingly, some of them appear to be large enough to be useful. However, I personally can’t imagine exploring their interiors via rovers controlled from Earth (too much time lag). Perhaps a precursor, manned mission (a la the “Athena” mission proposed by Bob Zubrin), to a highly eccentric, elliptical trajectory around Mars, would allow the crew about a month of fairly close proximity to Mars before a free-return trajectory to Earth, and near-real-time operations of highly-responsive rover (or rovers) to explore promising locations for a permanent manned base.
      As for launch costs: I think I read that Falcon Heavy launches are expected to cost around $100 million (I’ll have to check to see if my memory is correct). When one considers that that’s about 1/5 of NASA’s (admitted) cost of one Shuttle launch, and less than 1/10 of the REAL per-launch cost (figuring the development costs, amortized over the duration of the program) – and NASA’s ENTIRE percentage of the U.S. federal budget is less than 4/10ths of 1% – one realizes that a manned Mars program, using TRUE Mars Direct architecture (not NASA’s bloated DRMs, with nuclear thermal propulsion stages, Earth-orbit assembly, more than 3 heavy-lifter launches per human expedition, etc.), is quite affordable, given even minor shifts in national priorities.
      And how many trillions has the WOT cost the U.S. taxpayer – to date?
      -Stu Young

  30. People are being extremely unrealistic about the show’s ratings. EVERYONE would be watching. For this to happen would be the biggest step humanity has made since its birth. Of course, a project like this doesn’t seem at all feasible at the moment. I just can’t see people losing interest in something like this, even if the show itself is tedious. It wouldn’t make sense.

  31. Just 3 years before the first major Mars milestone: 2 unmanned Mars missions: 1) a demo mission, and 2) a Mars communication satellite. If they can meet these 2016 milestones, I’ll be very impressed.

    Seems like they’ll need huge success in 2014 in their reality show to come close to the necessary funding for just the 2016 milestones.

    It has been over 40 years since humans have left LEO. I have a feeling we’re going to have to rely on these types of private ventures to fund human space exploration.

  32. This is a huge scam for all you intergalaxtic nerds, they just want your registration fee and thats that. everything els is not a reality, its just another british scam.

  33. Some bodies been reading Red Mars me thinks and stolen the idea. I hope Kim Stanley Robison has received payment for the concept ideas.

  34. I fear people might have grown too accustomed living modern life and forgot how hard and brutal survival is even with all the basic necessities of life here on earth (check out nature, animal and human life). All we know about surviving is here on earth and mars would be exponentially more difficult. People still find it hard to survive in certain areas on our planet – and the word “hard” is a HUGE understatement. Most of the hardships here involve sustainable food and water – and that is before even talking about electricity and “higher privileges” of modern life. I’m not sure all candidates are aware of the kind of minimal living conditions they would have to live in – hopefully the training will raise their awareness.

    I for one don’t think I could bear watching the “show”. This is not a “reality show” – it’s a real thing – a televised show with real people struggling with so many problems and without anyone on earth able to help would be too unnerving for me – more saddening than entertaining.

    I also fear that not having any financial incentive to go there and not having a planned economy would present problems of its own in the long run for the “village” if it were successful enough to become one.

    Not having a “commander” or any hierarchy could also present its own problems with critical decision making. I am not militant but I do think “military precision” is vital for space exploration in this point of time.

    I know someone who wants to go and I am very happy I didn’t find him listed as a candidate – he is a good man and deserves a good life with a wife and children.

    I am excited about the possibility of colonization of mars and wanted to sign up myself at first. But not having a “real” long time plan like terraforming really bothered me and got me thinking of what a purposeless existence we would have there. I don’t think it is enough of a reason to do it “just to show we can”.

    Sending volunteer prisoners there to build a village would make more sense in my mind – much more than sending rapidly trained civilians with no survival skills or at least a military background.

    All in all I wish the best and nothing but love to anyone who finds himself there.

    • great post. Very sensible.

      I have said similar things to people and get responses like “well, they said flying was impossible” and “people colonized America when they said it was impossible.” that is comparing apples to wrenches.

      America had air, plants, animals and other people already lived here and even then almost every one of the first settlers died from the “harsh conditions.”

      I wonder if these space travelers could be dropped anywhere in the middle of alaska and survive and build a life, with their only help being communications delayed by 40 minutes. And they could breathe the air, and find water everywhere.

      Mars will be colder and drier and “airier” than alaska. And more remote.

  35. So many intriguing posts and so little time to respond. My take is that they’re about 10-20 years ahead of themselves to get this done with some remote element of safety. So many things can go wrong, and each could leap-frog into a death sentence. Young people are so spirited and enthusiastic, until they face a reality that bravado can’t overcome. Now that they’ve determined that there is no life on Mars (zero traces of methane gas), then that shuts out exploring for signs of life as a reason to apply. NASA will be going there, with a return trip planned, in the 2030′s or so (probably delayed some), and people talk about it being a rescue mission for Mars One. Just how many people could they possibly take back with them, and which one(s)? This is set up for ultimate failure and I don’t really understand the urgency in the organizers’ minds that this must happen now. What about a larger space station, or a colony on the Moon first? If they go through with this and it ends up on t.v., then I hope it doesn’t turn into a REAL survivor situation with lives on the line and diasastrous choices to be made. Young people, focus on something else– until they get their (Mars One) plans more solidified and more supportive of treating life as being more precious that trying to establish a colony on a foresaken planet that doesn’t lend itself to being colonized.

    • why a moon colony? to what end? nothing new to learn there, nothing can grow there. perhaps we will run out of rocks down here.

      I’m not saying Mars makes more sense, but at least there is a chance to find water and grow stuff there. Zero chance of that on the moon.

      Even in 2030, I think there is zero chance that nasa can land people on Mars and return them. The liftoff problem is too big to overcome. Gravity and the atmosphere will prohibit leaving Mars for a long long time, if not forever.

      • Landing and liftoff from Mars in a single, round-trip mission is possible (NASA had technologically-feasible missions planned from the 1960s through the SEI) – just very expensive.
        Mars Direct, however, with its innovation of refueling a lander using ISRU, makes it (relatively) affordable – at least for a NASA which would be funded as it was in the Shuttle days – before the ISS.
        I disagree that a Moon base would have no use. Its soil is full of useful minerals like aluminum (building material), silica (computer chips), oxygen and hydrogen (good for breathing, water and rocket fuel. Bases at the poles, if carefully positioned, would have year-round solar power. Hard vacuum is useful in industrial applications. Any resources extracted from the Moon, or products made there, are easily sent back to Earth orbit or Langrangian points via launching on solar-powered magnetic tracks. Placement of astronomical observatories, in all wavelengths, on the far side has innumerable advantages. And, the Moon is only 3 days away from Earth.
        In terms of exploration, the “been there, done that” comments are ludicrous; we’ve only explored a few square miles around 6 landing sites. What our President and the current NASA administrator probably meant to say is that the American (taxpaying) public is easily bored, and scientifically illiterate; hence, a government-funded return to the Moon would be politically unsustainable.

  36. I can’t wait to find out if there is life along the floors of the Martian cave walls!;-)
    Godspeed Mars-One.

    • Hmm. Here, my ignorance of microbiology is a problem, in that I don’t know if the absence of Martian methane just announced by NASA/JPL precludes all life, or just renders it very rare and/or very unlikely.

  37. All the comments above about how the problems can be solve are nonsense. It is just possible that man is not meant to live outside of LEO for more than 6 months on average because it will destroy the human body.

    Comparing deep space exploration to exploring on earth in wooden ships is just plain nonsense.

    Wanting to do something does not mean it can be done. A reality check is needed.

    Most of the people who have commented are science fiction junkies that have watch too much Star Trek.

    Terraforming is only possible in science fiction movies. We haven’t even proven that we can build a single habitable building on the Moon, and we are going to have a viable community on Mars. Too funny.

    NASA does not have a spaceship capable of a manned mission to Mars; write NASA and they will tell you that. No private company, e.g., Virgin Galactic, has a spaceship capable of a manned mission to Mars. NASA’s projected date for a manned mission to Mars is in the 2030′s assuming they can build it. NASA doesn’t even have a spacesuit that will work on Mars.

    And, NASA is very concerned about space radiation and the effects of no gravity for prolonged periods of time. NASA will not even try this manned mission to Mars until they are very sure they can get the men there and back. NASA will not send men on suicide missions. Again, NASA’s target date is sometime in the mid 2030s and depends on whether or not the technology can be developed; it does not exist now.

    The Apollo spaceships to the moon weighed about 100,000 pounds. The Curiosity spaceship weighed about 11,000 pounds and was not manned and did not orbit Mars. So landing a manned module with food, water, and supplies on Mars will take lots of fuel, much more than can currently be lifted into space from earth.

    NASA already has the infrastructure for sending men into space. It will probably cost NASA at least $250 to $500 billion to finish their Mars plans with overruns. There is no way that any private company will be able to do it for less than $500 billion;; and that assumes NASA will help them. This claim that it can be done for $6 billion is pure bull.

    There is no way that any private companies will be able to fund deep space missions. Just a lot of hype with no substance.

    All you science fiction junkies need to grow up and face reality.

    • George, you have (IMO) 2 good points, those regarding “zero-G” and radiation. We have no business building permanent settlements in space without some entity doing specific research on long-term radiation mitigation beyond the Van Allen belts, and establishing the minimum level of “artificial gravity” which will prevent the deterioration of the human body. Although there is the potential to develop radiation-absorbing construction (non-metallic, with a high hydrogen content, seems to be the most promising), and Tsiolkovsky thought of spinning space stations over 100 years ago, nobody, to my knowledge, has done long-term testing of such concepts.
      Perhaps Mars One (or some other consortium) could send a prototype spacecraft into solar orbit, or to a Lagrangian point. Imagine a “Tinkertoy”-style (I’m dating myself) complex, with multiple compartments, surrounded by various candidate shielding materials, and containing radiation counters. This shouldn’t be too expensive for a public/private consortium. Even JAXA, CSA, Roskosmos and ESA could contribute some funding, plus NASA (once our Congress-critters resolve their budget standoff).
      The next step would be to install a centrifuge on the ISS, or a later station (public and/or private), and test it on animals, human analogs, and/or astronauts/cosmonauts/”taikonauts” at various “artificial-G” levels, over periods of months. It’s typical that the proposed centrifuge for the ISS, arguably the most useful addition to the space complex, was canceled. Granted, it was scaled only for small animals, but perhaps some of the results would have been applicable to human research.
      The major problem for Mars One conducting such useful research is that what public attention it’s received has been for the relatively “sexy” concept of a human colony, funded by subscriptions to a reality-TV show, and related marketing/merchandising.
      That business model relies on public interest. I have difficulty believing that the masses would understand the need for such basic research. It’s hard to maintain the public’s interest for more than a couple of days in succession, especially with “boring” science.
      In the real world, such research must rely on projects which combine private donations by space enthusiasts (perhaps through non-profits like NSS and the Planetary Society); tuition- and alumni-funded research at universities; tax-based, public funding by government science and space agencies; and perhaps contributions by well-heeled industrialists.

    • Looks like NASA already has a design for mitigation of the radiation problem.

      From, re. the Deep Space Habitat (DSH):

      “Moreover, an interior radiation water wall will be incorporated in the DHS HAB design to protect crews from Solar Particle Events.

      The water wall, in both the 60-day and 500-day configurations, will consist of a 0.55 cm thick polyethylene tank and a 9.9 cm thick water wall for a total protection rating of 11g/cm squared.”

  38. The project plan is significantly sub-optimal. Given that they must have a pressurized habitat, and radiation protection, Phobos presents an easier target, and it’s lower gravity makes easier a return trip. It also allows easier prospecting, mining, and mineral trade with earth.

  39. If we compare the feasibility of this mission to an attempt to colonize Earth’s Moon, I think the Moon comes out well ahead. The main reason is that we can, with current technology, control Lunar robots on the Moon from Earth. Telepresence can be like having extra pairs of hands, with the brain of a human expert right there on the Moon to help you out. I would send robots on ahead, use them to build habitats, produce air and water, start food production, and create rocket fuel. Then, when that all checks out, people would go – with a return ticket in their back pocket, and a bunch of friendly helpers to welcome them.

  40. Thanks Stu Young for your kind remarks.

    The artificial gravity ideas of spinning the space station or rotating part of a spaceship does not guarantee that it will stop the deterioration of the human body. Centrifugal force is not the same as a planet’s gravity, which is mainly based on the mass of the planet.

    I was actually hoping that NASA would have tested these concepts by now at the ISS – International Space Station; however, I think the mechanics of doing this are much more difficult than most of us laypeople think and most likely very expensive, which is why it has not been tried.

    The space weather (e.g., sunspots, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, radiation, etc.) issues really can’t be tested at the ISS because it is in a LEO and is protected by the earth’s magnetic field. And, the ISS has multiple layers of outer protection from the crew’s quarters, which most likely will not be possible with a spaceship. Space walks are planned during periods of low solar activity because an astronaut could get the maximum allowable dose of radiation in just a few hours during a solar flare. Spacesuits provide little protection from a solar flare. The idea that certain materials can be used and or new designs, e.g., an interior radiation water wall sounds good on paper, but these will have to be tested. I hope they work, but before we sent people into deep space, they must be proven to work.

    I hope these problems can be solved; but, it will take decades and cost billions more just to find out.

  41. As far as building anything on the moon, everyone seems to overlook the problems with moon dust and radiation. Moon dust was a huge problem for Apollo astronauts on the moon that is not talked about much. Moon dust got on and into everything and stopped equipment from functioning properly. It is toxic to the human body and could cause cancer. It needs to be studied. The dust on Mars may be a bigger problem.

    NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust
    Sep. 29, 2008 — The Apollo Moon missions of 1969-1972 all share a dirty secret. “The major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” says Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee. Fine as flour and rough as sandpaper, Moon dust caused ‘lunar hay fever,’ problems with space suits, and dust storms in the crew cabin upon returning to space.

    These particles can wreak havoc on space suits and other equipment. During the Apollo 17 mission, for example, crewmembers Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Gene Cernan had trouble moving their arms during moonwalks because dust had gummed up the joints. “The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack’s boot,” Taylor says.

    Under prolonged exposure, the explorers would be at risk for everything from mechanical failures in spacesuits and airlocks to lung disease, said researchers last week at a NASA workshop focused on the issue.

    The moon dust problems will not be easy to solve; they may not be solvable, especially if the dust is too toxic for humans to be exposed too for more than a few hours/days.

    • One elegant solution, which I see in all of NASA’s current designs of surface habs, rovers, etc., is suit ports. Hopefully, that will render the dust problem more manageable.

  42. There are other problems with moon dust that won’t be solved by a suitport, which will make working on the moon very difficult.

    The Moon dust stopped parts of the Moon rover from working, e.g., locks to hold equipment on rover, after just a few hours. It stopped the astronauts from moving their arms properly in their spacesuits.

    I don’t see how suitports will solve those problems. It will stop moon dust from getting into the spaceship, maybe. The moon dust will get into the moving parts on the outside of the suitport attached to the suitport vehicle and to the astronauts’ spacesuits after leaving the suitport. Once the Astronaut disconnects from the suitport, moon dust will get all over the seals on both the suitport vehicle and the spacesuit, which will most likely make it very difficult or impossible to reconnect properly to the suitport vehicle after the moon walk.

    But, if NASA thinks it will work, go for it. Go back to the moon and test it. But, NASA was supposed to test these suitports in August and September of 2012 at the ISS; but, this has not happened as far as I know? Then there is the problem of replacing spacesuits that most likely will not withstand too much use walking on the very abrasive moon dust.

    ““The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack’s boot,” Taylor says.”

    And, this was after only a few hours of moon walking.

    The moon rover and other mechanical equipment will have to operate properly for weeks, months or longer. Most likely, there would need to be two or three backup moon rovers.

    Again, it is time for a reality check.

    Building a surface habitat on the moon equipped with all required equipment for living, ( e.g., a toilet, a shower, sleeping area, communication equipment, emergency water and air tanks, computers, water and air recycling equipment, refrigerators, storage area for two or three space suits, electric heaters, dust-proof airlock for entering and leaving habitat, backup equipment for all systems, food supplies for a months, solar panels, huge rechargeable batteries, etc.) will be a huge undertaking, which most likely will take years to complete.

    It will probably be a much more difficult task than building the ISS – International Space Station, which took over 10 years to build and 31 shuttle missions. The ISS is only 230 miles from earth; the moon is 238,900 miles from earth. The ISS needs to be resupplied from earth at least two or more times a year with tons of supplies. The habitat on the moon will have to be resupplied; probably, at least two times a year or more.

    Then there is again the problem of radiation. Some have suggested building the habitat under the Moon’s surface, which I will address in my next post.

  43. I love the comments about sending robots to earth’s Moon or Mars to build habitats, mine for ore, and make rocket fuel.

    There is a serious need for a reality check.

    Robotic arms were first invented in 1948 and some of these stationary machines are used in automobile factories on assembly lines to do repetitive tasks, e.g., weld joints.

    It has been over 62 years since the first robotic arm was created. But, guess what?

    No one has built a remote control robot than can even build a simple wooden box with a hinged lid from 6 pieces of wood, nails, screws and two metal hinges. No robot can pick up a hammer, then a nail, and then hammer two pieces of wood together. No robot or robots have ever built a house, even a prefab house on earth. No robots are used to mine ore or minerals on earth or create rocket fuel. But, somehow we are going to send robots to Earth’s Moon or Mars to do these things.

    It is time for another reality check.

    Did anyone ever wonder why robots were not used to build the ISS-International Space Station?

    They were not used because there are no robots that can do anything but simple repetitive mechanical tasks like welding a joint on a car on an automobile assembly line.

    Too many science fiction junkies believe that robots like in the science fiction TV series “Lost in Space” or the robot Robbie in “Forbidden Planet” actually exist.

    They don’t.

  44. In case anyone is getting the wrong idea, I am 100% for space exploration.

    That being said, I believe in facing reality. I also believe that just because man wants to do something, it does not mean that man can do it now or ever. There may be things that just are not physically possible, e.g., cloning a human using only chemicals, test tubes, and an artificial womb; curing the common cold; spaceships traveling at the speed of light, etc.

    Also, I haven’t forgotten that this article is about a billionaire snake-oil salesman – Bas Lansdorp – who has a scam going called “Mars One,” where he believes he can build a colony on Mars by 2023 for $6 Billion, which is funny.

    Funny, the total cost of the unmanned Curiosity Mission to Mars was at least $2.5 billion in 2010-2011 dollars and that involved only one flight; the Mars One project requires 2 unmanned flights and three manned flights, and it will only cost $6 billion – too funny!

    Thousands of people worked on the Curiosity Mars mission for years before it was launched on November 26, 2011, including hundreds of engineers. The Mars One group lists 5 people in its organization: Bas Lansdorp – Masters in mechanical engineering, Arno Wielders, Masters in Physics, Norbert Kraft, MD, Suzanne Flinkenflogel, degree in marketing, and Bryan Versteeg, an artist.

    Why anyone would believe this scamming billionaire snake-oil salesman – Bas Lansdorp – is beyond me?

    I forgot that there are many science fiction junkies living in la-la land. By the way, the failure rate for unmanned Mars missions is about 50%. How many people will really be willing to go to Mars without a guarantee that they can come back to earth? How many people are really willing to go to Mars and die within six months or less when the food, water and air run out?

    When push comes to shove, most of these people who have signed up for Mars One will back out. Most will not be able to pass the physicals and testing required for going in space. You just don’t board a spaceship and put on a spacesuit and do things; it takes training on how to be an astronaut, live in space and use a spacesuit. This whole Mars One extravaganza is a huge joke.

    How many people are really going to want to spend months in a small room and put on a bulky spacesuit to walk on Mars? How many people will get used to not taking showers every day and spending at least 20 hours per day confined to a small room? How many people will go insane after a few months? Anyway, it is an unrealistic joke.

    Astronauts are willing to endure these hardships in the name science. For example, Valeri Polyakov stayed in space for 437 days and 18 hours at the Mir space station. Because of the ill effects he experienced, most astronauts are rotated back to earth from the ISS within six months. There is a plan for the first 12-month mission to the ISS in 2015 for one Russian and one American astronaut.

    What do these science-fiction junkies think they will do on Mars for months? Sit around Martian campfires roasting S-Mores and singing Kumbaya? This is not like taking a vacation to Yellowstone National Park or Walt Disney World. There is absolutely nothing to do on Mars unless you are doing scientific experiments.

    Too many people actually think that the Mars’ city in the science fiction movie “Total Recall” is real and that Mars One colony will be similar. Guess what? “Total Recall” was a science fiction movie.

    Sorry, I got side-tracked, now back to the moon habitat, which will have to be protected from radiation, just like the Mars One habitats. I will address those issues in my next post.

  45. Who said it has to be lots of transporting via lots of shuttle craft why cant they build a big transport barge an carry every thing in one hit then second an third barges could be built for future movements . size does not matter in space !!. That way the barge becomes the main transport container in orbit once they arrive an would have the capability to depart from orbit if required if we don’t try how will we know ? this planet is dying an we need to find a way to get to the next we have to start some where and that starts with an idea and a Challenge ??

  46. I don’t think this should be attempted without proper holodeck and matter replication technology… even with a TOS level of technology that’s a bit dangerous IMHO, you need at least the Enterprise-D to attempt such a trip for real… but just take the Enterprise-E to be safe though :p

  47. Bob,

    Size does matter in space. Why are you assuming that it doesn’t?

    How big is your “big transport barge”?

    Are you familiar with the laws of Physics and Energy? The larger the mass of an object, the more energy it takes to move it. Do you remember from high school physics or science classes Einstein’s special theory of relativity and the formula E = mc2 or E equals mc squared?

    “Einstein’s mass-energy relation”

    You have been watching too many science fiction movies. Beam me up, Scotty.

    This planet is not dying; and, even if it were, how do you think we could get 7.1 Billion 7,100,000,000 people (i.e., the current estimated World population) off Earth? And, then where would they live?

    The most people that we have lunched at one time into space is 7; and that was to the ISS – International Space Station (which is only 240 miles above Earth), using the now retired NASA shuttle. The retired shuttle could hold 10 people in an emergency. So, if we used NASA’s retire shuttle, it would take 710,000,000 (7.1 billion divided by 10) missions from earth to take all 7.1 billion people from Earth to wherever you are assuming they could live because the Earth is dying. But, that shuttle could only go 240 miles above earth. The farthest we have sent humans into space is to the Moon, which is 238,900 miles from Earth. The Apollo missions to the Moon were manned missions with a crew of 3 astronauts.

    Let’s discuss the problem of building the big transport barge in space and sending it to Mars.

    You would not be able to lift your big transport barge from Earth; you would have to build it in space.

    NASA’s largest rocket called the SLS – Space Launch System, which has not been tested yet, will be able to boast 143 tons (286,000 pounds, lbs.) into orbit. This rocket will be used to lift NASA’s Orion Capsule (total weight: 46,848 lbs. without supplies, fuel and crew), which will hold a crew of four. NASA hopes to have it ready for a crew by 2021 for missions beyond LEO – Low Earth Orbit, which is beyond 1,200 miles.

    The Saturn V, which was the biggest rocket and the rocket used to launch the Apollo spaceship to the Earth’s Moon. The Saturn V was able to boast 260,000 lbs. into LEO – Low Earth Orbit (from 99 miles to 1,200 miles above Earth). It takes lots of energy or fuel to lift 260,000 lbs.

    How big is something that weighs 260,000 lbs.?

    Well, let’s put that in perspective. The Apollo space crafts that went to the Moon weight just over 104,000 lbs. including the moon lander, which weighed about 36,100 lbs. with 3 crew members and fuel. The distance to Earth’s Moon is 238,900 miles, the distance to Mars ranges from 35,000,000 miles to 63,000,000 miles, which depends on the orbits of the two planets. Getting your huge barge to Mars will take lots of fuel or energy. No one, including NASA, has any rockets that can do what you are proposing with your big transport barge.

    The heaviest payload ever lifted to the ISS – International Space Station is 20 tonnes (44,093 lbs.). The ISS is only about 240 miles above Earth.

    Let’s use the ISS to put this in perspective.

    It took over 10 years and 31 shuttle missions to build the ISS – International Space Station, which weighs 924,739 pounds, and is only about 240 miles above Earth. The dimensions of the ISS are:
    Length = 167.3 feet, Truss Length = 357.5 feet. The ISS cost over $150 billion to build.

    After reading the above, you should now realize that your “big transport barge” is science fiction nonsense; but, I will continue explaining why.

    Your huge transport barge would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build, maybe trillions and probably take more than 10 years to build. It would probably take least 30 missions from earth to build it, assuming it can be done. Then it would take 30 or more mission from earth to fill your huge transport barge with supplies. We are now into the trillion dollar range, which will never be approved by Congress. Not sure how you will get the rocket engines into space or the fuel for you big transport barge; but, since we are talking science fiction, let’s proceed.

    Let’s assume that somehow you get your science fiction big transport barge built. Then you have to get it to orbit Mars because it is too big to be landed on Mars.

    The heaviest objects NASA has orbited around Mars are small reconnaissance orbiters weighing less than 1,000 lbs. The heaviest object NASA has landed on Mars is the Curiosity rover, which weighs 1,980 lbs. NASA called that landing the most difficult landing ever attempted by NASA and named it “Seven Minutes of Terror.” There is no current technology that would allow you to land a big transport barge weighing hundreds of tons of Mars.

    But, let’s play some more science fiction and assume that you have gotten your huge science fiction transport barge to orbit Mars, how do you get all the supplies on the barge to the surface of Mars?

    Well, you most likely would need a human crew that somehow could load up a smaller lander and makes trips to the Martian surface to deposit supplies. But, guess what, that is not possible yet. Actually, NASA has never had a huge spaceship orbiting Mars, manned or not.

    And, let’s not forget that no one has a rocket cable of a manned mission to Mars, not even NASA. NASA believes they might have one sometime in the 2030s; but, only if all the technical problems can be solved, e.g., lack of gravity, space radiation, storage of rocket fuel, etc.

    Anyway, your big transport barge is pure science fiction.

    Beam me up, Scotty!

  48. There is no point in arguing the technology. Mars One is a MEDIA project! And a brilliant one. Their core team has more graphics/marketing experience than space tech experience. That should tell you all you need to know.

    They are not planning to pull this off. They are just planning to act 200% like they are going to pull it off. Next step is to make a big hoopla about crew selection, and then “as a test environment” set them up in a mock-up of the space colony — on reality TV, of course. And that’s where they make their millions, and that’s where it ends.

    Is it a hoax? No really, because it’s all just talk and dreams! Therein lies the real brilliance. They want to get everyone talking and dreaming and contributing. It would be a hoax if they tried to demonstrate the technology — which they never plan to do. Is it dishonest? Entirely.

    Mars One is “non profit”, so how does that fit? Just another layer of deception. Sure, it really is non-profit. But dig a little and you will find the Interplanetary Media Group behind it, which is, ta-da, for-profit, and will be pocketing the revenue.

    Even if they get found out early (well, I’m already there), and after lots of denial they finally admit their real goal before the TV show happens, they still win, albeit on a smaller scale: Interplanetary Media Group will get praise for brilliance — and lots of work. In other words, it devolves to elaborate publicity stunt.

    This is just a more grand version of a similar media stunt pulled recently by, you guessed it, another Dutch media company. In that one, they made it seem like human-powered flight was possible. They made elaborate faked videos, including test flights. I’d be willing to bet that the same people are behind this. Or just jealous competitors. ( )

  49. Chris, I get where you are coming from, yet I question why companies such as Lockheed Martin would risk their reputations becoming involved in this project if it is all media hype. LM is well known in the space community and have actively participated in many “real” space exploartion projects. I have to believe they would have thoroughly investigated this “Dutch media company” prior to attaching their name to such a project. Would they (and I’m being serious not sarcastic) risk their credibility in the industry for future projects by involving themselves in something, that whether you call it a hoax or not, will be viewed as such if they actually go?

  50. Scott,

    You are misquoting what Lockheed Martin is doing.

    Mars One is paying Lockheed Martin to do a study for them.

    Lockheed Martin is a corporation in business to make money.

    They build rockets and stuff for NASA, but not for free. They are in business to make money and are responsible to their shareholders and majority shareholders who are the people who really own Lockheed and run its operations. Lockheed Martin’s biggest client in the Space Exploration area is NASA. Lockheed also build many of the fighter planes used by the USA military. NASA has paid Lockheed Martin hundreds of billions over the last 50 years. Lockheed has been paid hundreds of billions by the USA military for building fighter jets.

    Lockheed Martin businesses are:

    Aerospace & Defense
    Information Technology
    Emerging Technologies
    Contract Vehicles/GSA Schedules

    So, if you want to enter into a contract with them to do anything in those areas, you have to pay them, which is what Mars One has done.

    Mars One Selects Lockheed Martin to Study First Private Unmanned Mission to Mars

    So, Lockheed hopes that NASA and everyone else, including Mars One will pay billions to them to get to Mars.

    Bas Lansdorp is still a snake-oil salesman, who got his start co-founding a company Ampyx, which is located in Hague, the seat of government in the Netherlands, and the capital city of the province of South Holland.

    He and his co-founder came up with a silly Green Energy concept – “The Power Plane.” The Power Planes is a wind turbine glider attached to cables that will circle high above earth and then do dives back towards earth generating lots (?) of electricity that is sent back to Earth via the cables and then repeating this process over and over again solving the World’s energy problems with Green Energy.

    Ampyx has never produced one Power Plane that has actually worked producing sufficient energy to be used by any Utility company. Ampyx received tens of millions or more from grants from Green Energy Organization in the Netherlands, e.g., Dutch Greentech, who gets most of its money from the government who gets it money from the taxpayers. So Ampyx was actually funded by the taxpayers in the Netherlands, whom I am sure would have never have agreed to give their money to Ampyx or Bas Lansdorp. Bas Lansdorp then sold many of his shares in Ampyx to investors, making him a multi-millionaire. So, basically, Mars One is the result of millions indirectly given by taxpayers to Ampyx that made Lansdorp a millionaire, who then formed Mars One.

    His Mars One project is as silly as his Green Power Plane. He is a fraud. Mars One is a Fraud. It will cost over $150 billion for huge supply missions to Mars and a Manned Mission to Mars, both of which are not possible now. NASA believes that maybe by the 2030′s they will have solved all the technical issues for a manned mission to Mars; but that assumes it is possible to fix all the technical issues. No one currently has a rocket ship capable of a manned mission to Mars or a rocket ship capable on landing anything on Mars that weighs more than a 2,000 lbs.

    People who are signing up for Mars Ones are just science fiction Junkies. And, guess what?

    Bas Lansdorp is not going to be on the first mission or any mission to Mars for that matter? Why? He has a great girlfriend that does not want to go. So, he gets to stay on earth and have a lovely romance and life on Earth with his new girlfriend, while he sends people to their death on a suicide missions to Mars.

    Why anyone would give this guy a penny is beyond me.

    But, there is a sucker born every minute.

  51. Actually George,

    I didn’t mean to nor do I “think” I misquoted anything. I “asked” quite seriously and out of curiosity why they would risk their reputation being involved in this project, if as you clearly point out “Bas Lansdorp is still a snake-oil salesman”. This Ampyx information I assume, would be available to Lockheed Martin. So I’m curious why they would participate in a mission that is a suicide death mission? If the people selected to go, are certain to wind up dead…would you as CEO or a shareholder in a company chance the backlash from the whole planet (particularly families of those going) to be involved. I get they are in business to make money, everyone is. But, where’s the money to be made if you send 4 people to certain death on a mission you know couldn’t work, and actively participated in.

    I’m not supporting or disputing any claims made, just curious why they are involved if as you say and many others have, that it is all a hoax and media hype.

  52. I am sorry, but there will be no backlash from the whole planet against Lockheed for doing a $250,000 concept study for Bas Lansdorp’s Mars One. That $250,000 paid to Lockheed Martin represents 0.000530% of Lockheed’s total sales for 2012.

    What planet backlash? Most people in the most populous countries in the World and the other very small countries are mainly illiterate and live in very depressed socio- economic situations, e.g., China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Africa, etc. If you subtract the populations of the USA, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy Canada, and Australia from the total population of the World of 7.1 billion, you are left with 6.2 billion people or 87% of the total World population. These 87% of the people on the planet Earth don’t give a rat’s behind about space exploration; and they will not care one iota if four nutcases who volunteered for a suicide mission to Mars get killed trying.

    Companies are organized to sell products or services for a profit. Lockheed Martin is such a company and is very successful both financially and innovatively. Lockheed does not make decisions on who is sent into space, to the Moon, or to Mars. And, the people exploring space that have died (18) have not hurt Lockheed Martin sales. Why? Lockheed Martin does not make its profit from public opinion because it does not sell its products or services to the general public. Lockheed’s primary clients include: NASA, U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Army Federal Aviation Administration, United Kingdom, Denmark, Taiwan, Iraq, Oman, and Jordan. In 2012, 82% or $47.2 billion of Lockheed Martin’s total sales came from the U.S. Government.

    Lockheed Martin’s Net Sales for 2012: $47,182,000,000 ($47.2 billion), Net Earnings $2,745,000,000 and total assets $38,657,000. Lockheed Martin was ranked 59th in the Fortune 500 in 2013, and they employ 60,794 people.

    And, of course Lockheed Martin knows all about Bas Lansdorp, Ampyx and his Mars One project.

    Bas announced in Washington D.C. (December 2013) that he had signed contracts with Lockheed for mission concept studies for a little more than $250,000 and SSTL – Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd For $82,000.

    There seems to be a few things that everyone is overlooking. The one I like best is permission. Just because you are a millionaire, you don’t get to lunch huge rockets into space without the permission of the government in the country you are lunching from – Mars One has not received permission to lunch a rocket from any country. Then you need a lunch center or facility; they cost hundreds of billions to build. No country has agreed to let Mars One rent or use their space centers. But, that does not matter yet because Bas Lansdorp does not own a rocket.

  53. The article you cited states that only 8% of start-up companies are actually successful? Assuming that all those start-up companies were each started by one person, then 92% of the people that start businesses fail.

    Ampyx and Bas Lansdorp are part of the 92% that will never be successful. Well, that is not exactly true, Bas did make a few million selling his majority interest in Ampyx, a company that have not sold one PowerPlane or any product for that matter – not one sale of anything, to start Mars One.

    It is not clear why you are comparing very successful companies, e.g., Virgin Group Ltd. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Microsoft, etc. that were created by very successful people, e.g., Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos to Bas Lansdorp, Ampyx and Mars One.

    You are comparing diamonds to coal.

    All these famous people were worth hundreds of millions from viable businesses very early in their lives: Bill gates became a billionaire when he was 31; Steve Jobs when he was 30; Richard Branson when he was 34; Mark Zuckerberg at 23. And, everyone mentioned in that article is now a billionaire.

    Bas Lansdorp is almost 37; and it is highly unlikely that he will ever make millions or billions from his scam called the “Mars One project.”

    All these entrepreneurs in the article you cited sold products or services to the public that were hits with the public. All these men are billionaires because of the products and services they sold. And, all these billionaires mentioned in the article are not billionaires because their companies got millions in grants from green organizations that got their money from governments that got their money from taxpayers for Green Earth nonsense – The PowerPlane. And, all these successful companies are still selling their products and services for hundreds of billions annually. Bas Lansdorp and Ampyx are not generating anything from selling products and services.

    Bas Lansdorp is not selling any products or services, but tickets on a rocket ship to Mars that does not exist. Bas Lansdorp’s and Mars Ones total assets are most likely under 10 million, of which, most is from what Bas got selling his majority interest in Ampyx. The idea that a reality show about Mars Ones will generate billions in revenue is pure nonsense; but many gullible people exist; some even believe in UFOs and little green men.

    Lansdorp is a total fraud and won’t even release how much he has collected in donations and ticket sales, but, supposedly it is at least $200,000.

    I can’t find any financial statements for Ampyx Power because it hasn’t sold anything. It gets it funding from Mainport Innovation Fund and Dutch Greentech and it was founded in 2008.

    Per Ampyx Power own website today on 1-23-2014 is the following:

    “Ampyx Power is a company in a pre-commercial stage, which means that currently, and also for the next few years, Ampyx Power does not have any sales revenues. Ampyx Power therefore relies on investments, grants and subsidies in order to complete the development of its first commercial product (i.e., the PowerPlane®). As a consequence, there is a serious risk that investors will lose their investment, for instance because technology development or market development encounters delays or fundamental issues, or because Ampyx Power fails to attract sufficient investments to complete the development stage. Therefore, Ampyx Power strongly discourages people who cannot afford to lose their investment to provide a Subordinated Convertible Loan.”

    What is funny about the above is that Bas Lansdorp sold his majority interest in Ampyx Power in 2011 in order to launch Mars One, a “not-for-profit organization (nonprofit foundation) that plans to land humans on Mars in 2023.”

    Lansdorp will not disclose the amount he received for selling his majority interest in Ampyx Power; a company that has never sold anything. We can assume it was millions for a company that has never sold one product and whose existence comes primarily from money that can ultimately be traced to taxpayers in the Netherlands in the forms of funding from the government to organizations like from Mainport Innovation Fund and Dutch Greentech.

    He created Mars One as a nonprofit foundation, however, he also created another company in which he is the majority shareholder, which is a for-profit company, called “Interplanetary Media Group” that owns the exclusive right to sell mission broadcast and advertising rights. Just how much those rights might be worth is anyone’s guess — but Mars One is betting that it is a lot.

    I will give him credit for this; he is a great innovated snake-oil salesman; but, so was Bernard Madoff.