One Way Trip to Mars?

The New York Times ponders a one-way-trip to Mars:

There is, however, a way to surmount this problem while reducing the cost and technical requirements, but it demands that we ask this vexing question: Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again?

Apparently there’s no shortage of people who would be willing to take a one way trip, knowing that would mean they die on Mars.  For me, a successful mission means bringing the astronauts home again.  It wouldn’t have mattered much if Christopher Columbus had sunk in the Caribbean, never returning home to tell everyone of the New World.  No, a successful mission has to bring the explorers home.  The problem is that space is full of radiation, and shielding is expensive and heavy.

I’ve pretty much lost all faith in government space initiatives.  I do think we’ll go to Mars.  But we’ll go to Mars because there’s money in it.  If someone is willing to take a one-way-trip, there’s someone else who will pay a lot of money to go and return.  All we need is for private industry to make it cheap and routine.

20 thoughts on “One Way Trip to Mars?”

  1. I think you confuse ‘bringing home the explorer’ with ‘bringing back the information that made the trip worth it’.

    Had Columbus sunk, nobody would have benefited from his trip. Had he a satellite internet connection and was able to send back details of his trip, it wouldn’t have been all for naught.

    Hell, I’d gladly volunteer to die on Mars. I’m going to die anyway, might as well be for a good cause. I already volunteered to possibly die to protect this country, I’m cool with a risky venture to expand humanity’s ability to get off this rock.

  2. I’m speaking more philosophically when I say that. Not so much that you couldn’t have a practical one way mission. I think that getting people to survive on Mars would be nearly as difficult as bringing them home, from a practical point of view. If we’re just sending people to Mars, who will then die in a matter of weeks, there won’t be much benefit.

  3. I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    Though I’ll likely (and luckily) never get the chance. It’s still more cost effective to do it remotely.

  4. A one-way trip means “colonization” to the forward thinking among us, not a suicide mission.

    Ever play Oregon Trail? Those folks made a one-way trip, too.

  5. You read one way trip as “die on Mars”. They mean “live on Mars for 20 YEARS!” Think about it. Leave Earth at age 50, live on Mars (with others) until about age 70.

    Remember being in zero g for aver a year (the trip to Mars) causes changes in your body that that make living on Earth again difficult. Cosmo/astronauts have lived in Earth orbit for year+ durations to see what happens (yes as human lab rats) and the short versions is this: you may not be a cripple for life, but you’ll never be 100% again.

    Maybe just staying on Mars would be better.

  6. Besides the obvious benefit of having humans off-world against the time that some nut job (or group of nut jobs) who decide that it’s time to detonate a nuke, there are some other possible reasons for a one-way trip:

    1) Compared to Earth, both Luna and Mars have microgravity. If a way can be found to lessen the g forces on takeoff, it would be a blessing for the handicapped and osteoporotic victims.

    2) The Australia example: between the various Death Rows and those serving life without parole, there is a potentially ready work force to build the infrastructure. Suspend the sentence, not commute/pardon (so that the sentence can be immediately imposed should anyone try to return) and put them to work. Have them do this for some term, and then declare them to be ‘citizens’ which under the conditions would probably mean that they could vote for their bosses and not much else. Of course, the ship that carries them would have to be named the Cerebrus. Heh.

    I also predict that the most popular name on Mars would be Marvin. :)

  7. The problem with living on Mars is that it’s very difficult to live on Mars. It’s really a question of what kills you first. Assuming you could bring enough food, some energy source, and some may to manufacture a breathable atmosphere, you are either going to need to bury your colony, or manufacture some kind of protective dome to prevent overexposure to radiation. Normal radiation levels on Mars wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but with no atmosphere or magnetic field, you’ll be prone to high, unsafe doses of radiation from solar activity. Either way you’re stuck having to bring excavation equipment, which has to all be operable within a spacesuit. Temperatures on Mars during the martian summer can get up to -17F. Cold in Mars is -225F.

    It’s a hostile environment. I don’t think living on Mars is a smaller engineering problem than bringing people back.

  8. Plus, temps at the equator can get up to +70 F in summer.

    I think we should start shooting rockets full of lichen and microorganisms right away, while planning to keep some colonists alive there for the long run.

    But clearly, we need a staging point on the moon ASAP.

  9. Surface temperatures can get that hot. Mars has practically no atmosphere to retain heat in. It’ll still be cold.

  10. That’s also during the day. At night, due to the lack of atmosphere, it’ll drop below the freezing point of water, and below the freezing point that most life can exist.

  11. I thought the trip didn’t include actually living after reaching Mars.

  12. Amen on private industry making it cheap and routine! People are working toward that now. Burt Rutan with Richard Branson’s money, among others.

    There’s a guy named Bill Stone who thinks the cost of a moon landing could be brought down by launching without return fuel, but sending a team to mine water ice to extract hydrogen for the return trip, and eventually to stock an orbiting fueling station. Since lifting mass out of earth’s gravity well is the main expense in space travel, there should be some savings there once the technology catches up.

  13. There’s water and sunlight, so that’s air and fuel without a lot of tech to get it; the biggest problem is food and there’s a school of thought that Martian soil may have an abundance of peroxides. This is not good. But it’s not unsolvable.

  14. Gotta colonize the moon as a good first step, but this next part applies to both- the first few ships are unmanned, with supplies and tools, can be launched outside the window needed to minimize transit time for humans, and be waiting when we get there. This allows the personnel to stay alive when they arrive, and for some time until the next load arrives.. Later ships deal with bringing back those who don’t wish to stay.

    Taking, say 10 people there and then bringing 10 people right back is not really all that useful. Taking 50 people and rotating out 20 of them on the next ship, while augmenting overall numbers, until you have built up a more sustainable population and skill set makes more sense. There needs to be a permanent presence.

    Some want to go and come back, some want to go and come back eventually, some may not want to come back at all. Eventually the majority need to identify with and want to live there permanently.

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