A couple of scientists have written a scholarly lawyer suggesting that expeditions to Mars would be far cheaper and come sooner if they were to be one-way trips. The AP reports that the first Mars astronauts would stay there and never return.
“Invoking the spirit of ‘Star Trek’ in a scholarly article entitled ‘To Boldly Go,’ two scientists contend human travel to Mars could happen much more quickly and cheaply if the missions are made one-way. They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return.
“‘The main point is to get Mars exploration moving,’ said Dirk Schultz-Makuch of Washington State University, who wrote the article in the latest ‘Journal of Cosmology’ with Paul Davies of Arizona State University. The colleagues state – in one of 55 articles in the issue devoted to exploring Mars – that humans must begin colonizing another planet as a hedge against a catastrophe on Earth.
“Mars is a six-month flight away, possesses surface gravity, an atmosphere, abundant water, carbon dioxide and essential minerals. They propose the missions start by sending two two-person teams, in separate ships, to Mars. More colonists and regular supply ships would follow.”
A lot of people, including Apollo astronaut Ed Mitchell, are a bit queasy about the idea of the first people to explore Mars also being the first Martians. Considering that colonizing another world has never been tried before, a percentage of the explorers will likely die sooner than they would have had they remained on Earth. The early settlers of North America had it rough enough. The Roanoke colony vanished almost without a trace. Both Jamestown and Plymouth endured starvation winters before prospering.
Keeping the first Martian settlers alive with resupply ships, at least until they become self-sufficient, could also prove to be more expensive than Schultz-Makuch and Davies are estimating.
Still, after thinking it through, what a magnificent vision for the 21st Century. To be sure, both the settlers and the people back on Earth will have to be prepared for the fact that some of the settlers will die unnatural deaths. They will do so in full view of the 6 billion-plus humans they leave behind on the Earth. The North American settlers were at least spared having their last minutes observed in real time by their dear ones back in Britain.
There are ways to make a Mars settlement more sustainable, including developing advanced transportation technology and refining what NASA called In Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) techniques.
Also, sustaining and building up a Mars settlement would be easier if the Moon were used as a refueling depot for supply ships headed for the Red Planet. Such ships would only have to carry enough fuel to get them to one of the Lagrange points where the Earth’s and Moon’s gravity cancel out. Plentiful water recently discovered on the Moon would be converted to rocket fuel, transported to the waiting supply ship to top off. Then the ship would blast off to Mars.
Settling Mars, as opposed to brief, Apollo-on-crack expeditions, requires using the Moon as a staging base. The road to Mars, and the rest of the solar systems, lies through the Moon.
Source: Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars, Nicholas K. Gernaios, AP, Novermber 15th, 2010