A one way trip to Mars with Mars One

Recently Mars One got a lot of attention in the Dutch media, Arno Wielders did some television work and the organasation got to do a radio interview. Started in May 2012, Mars One certainly had its fair share of time in the spotlights. Maybe I finally should write my thoughts about it.

Well, what does Mars One want? In a nuttshell, a permanent settlement of humans on Mars. and do they want to accomplish that? By using of the shelf technology and finance the project purely commercially. As a big television event.

Mars One isn’t the first one to come up with a plan to colonize Mars. NASA tried it, but came with a ridiculous expensive project which was shot down almost immediately. With that bad experience in mind, the Mars Society presented their Mars Direct plan. The first practical approach to put humans on Mars.

Mars Direct uses off the shelf technology and tries to keep costs as low as possible. It did take a page from NASA, the astronauts returned back to earth after the visit to Mars. This does complicates things, you need to create an infrastructure to bring the people back.

Mars One Base
A permanent base on Mars envisioned by Mars One. Photo: Mars One

Also, like NASA, Mars Direct assumes that the astronauts will have to do something “useful”. Obviously that would be doing sciency stuff and since time on Mars is limited, the astronauts can’t be bothered with all kinds of mondane tasks. Like setting up a settlement. Another big issue of doing science as your main task is that you will come in conflict with the “robot crowd”. And that’s a can of political worms you don’t want to open.

So how does Mars One go about it. First, they make their intention quite clear. They want a permanent settlement of humans on Mars. Secondly, science isn’t their main goal. Instead they want a kind of “Big Brother” in space. A continous media stream of the daily life of the settlers will pay the bill of this endeavour. But most importantly, the journey is a one way ticket.

A one way ticket to Mars has been proposed earlier but got very negative reaction for being suicidal. It is a very clever idea though. It prevent much complcation and saves ton of money. Probably due to the rise of firms like SpaceX, Mars One doesn’t seem to crazy. Elon Musk has similar ideas about humans in space and has proven that it is possible to create a much cheaper space infrastructure.

For now Mars One has the wind in its sails. They can base their plan on the technologies developed by the likes of SpaceX and thanks to all the commercial space hooplah Mars One isn’t depicted as a bunch of lunatics. Also, not interfering with the science crowd (and their precious budgets), their Mars settlers can focus on one thing only, setting up a permanent settlement.

Mars One explains much better their project than I’ll ever can. They’ve got a fantastic website, well made and very clear. One last note, the roadmap they envision is awfully tight. I doubt it is possible on such a short notice, but that might not be that important. What counts is that Mars One presented a realistic and affordable plan to put humans on Mars. If it will be 2033 instead of 2023 would fine with me. I definitely will blog more on clubs like Mars One, what drives them and put my own spin ont it.

A Dragon Took Flight

Again a big triumph for SpaceX, the space company of Elon Musk. It had its maiden launch of its capsule Dragon. The launch vehicle itself, the Falcon 9, was only the second of its model. The Dragon reached its orbit and for what I gathered it came into the ocean safely.



Launch of the 2nd Falcon 9 with the Dragon.

The Dragon is primarily a freighter ship for supplying the ISS, for this SpaceX has a contract under the COTS program. If launching future Dragons and returning them to earth will go flawlessly, a manned Dragon may be possible. America will has its successor for the Space Shuttle

For now, marvel at the ongoing miracle called SpaceX.

Water on the Moon. Finally?

Probably everybody interested in space affairs has already read the good news about the confirmation of water on the Moon. The results of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) were in and they found 5.6 per cent water in the material ejected by its companion LCROSS (Lunar Crater Remote Observation and Sensing Satellite). LCROSS and a rocket stage impacted on the moon in order to create two visible plumes of Moon material.


Image by the LRO Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment
Now, during the decades the discussion was whether the Moon contains water or not. For future long term manned Moon missions that would be a big plus. The rocks from the Apollo missions indicated to a bone dry Moon. Hope was put on the eternal shadows of the Lunar poles where water could be deposited by the solar wind and remain there. An idea that was difficult to proof and until the LRO mission for the pro Moon lobby something like grasping at straws.

Large quantities of water and other volatiles are now pretty certain, so what’s the big deal. Well, remember the little capsule on top of the Saturnus Moon rocket? That was the only thing that returned to earth of this huge spaceship. Most of it was fuel. Now what if you could produce the fuel for taking of the Moon and returning to earth on the Moon itself? That would save an enormous amount of expensive lift-off mass on earth. A moon-base could get to be much more affordable and it could produce fuel and consumables for other kinds of space missions.

With this confirmation the attention is getting back to the Moon. Bush’s Moon-plans died pretty much under Obama and Obama aims at the Mars. But without real commitment. It looks that the future manned space plans of Obama will be dead on arrival. No concrete plan and no good and solid long term goal. It would direct and waste efforts of the US space community into a dead end for decades to come.

With plenty of volatiles on the Moon (one suspects billions of litres of water in a radius of 10 km from the impact of LCROSS) this satellite becomes interesting again. Especially for the private industry. In my opinion a small space industry near earth is more important for the future of manned space-flight than the Apollo style missions of politicians. The Moon as producer of fuel and consumables would be a good step in the right direction.