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Dutch Company Offers One Way Ticket To Mars

posted 27 Mar 2013, 07:55 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Mar 2013, 07:56 ]

A Dutch company called Mars One is planning to be the first to launch a manned-mission to Mars and is looking for volunteer astronauts. The company wants to send four people to the Red Planet to start a colony in 2023 although there is one catch. The successful applicants will have no way of coming back.

 ANIMATION  (MARS ONE) -  For decades, proposals for a manned mission to Mars have been put forward and abandoned. While the technology exists to take people to the Red Planet, none exists to bring them back. Dutch private company Mars One have decided that this obvious shortcoming shouldn't be an obstacle. They're offering a one-way-trip for four plucky volunteers to the Mars in 2023.

Mars One plans to finance this project by selling broadcasting rights for a global television show about the preparation and eventual journey to Mars, as well as the life of the foursome who make it there. The company's co-founder Bas Lansdorp told Reuters he was confident of raising the 6 billion US dollars he believes the scheme will cost, and says planning is already on schedule.

"Everything we need to go to Mars exists, we have the rockets to send people to Mars, we have the equipment to land on Mars, we have robotics to prepare the settlement for humans, so for a one-way mission all the technology exists," Lansdorp told Reuters.

Although the application procedure for budding astronauts is not yet open, the company says it's received more than 2,000 emails from those prepared to spend the rest of their lives living inside a metal hut on Mars.

Lansdorp says applicants from all corners of the globe will be invited to win a place on the mission, but that the initial selection process will be stringent.

"Our experts will determine who is good enough and who is not, but after that when we have a large group of people who are all good enough to go to Mars, we will ask the audience to help us in a democratic process of deciding who is going to go to Mars, because we feel that this is a more important election than any presidential election," Lansdorp said.

One of those bidding to win a place on the craft is father-of-three Stephan Guenther, a flight instructor from the eastern German city of Magdeburg. Guenther says he's confident of his abilities to last the course.

"I am healthy, physically and mentally fit, I am ready to go," said Guenther. "What is not clear to me yet, of course, is how the whole selection process is going to look like. It depends on many factors, but I hope my chances are good."

Guenther says he isn't worried by the fact that, having left Earth, he would be on average 225 million kilometres away from home and wouldn't see his wife, two daughters, or son again.

"For me it actually was just about the flight to Mars. Let me put it that way, it is a one in a lifetime chance. So the 'detail' of whether I am flying one-way or going to return, doesn't really matter," he said.

The 44-year-old's wife, Beate Wieden-Guenther, is less happy. "I was not really involved (in the decision). We talked about it and I was not really amazed, saying: 'Wohoo, you are flying to Mars and maybe you won't come back', I wasn't really overwhelmed with joy," she said.

British Mars expert Dr Adam Baker, senior lecturer in space engineering at Kingston University, says although he thinks that in the long-term humanity will visit Mars, the task would probably be beyond theMars One team.

"To send people there with life support, with food, with air, with all the other things that they'll need, books, entertainment, means of communication, and means of providing for their own resources for a long stay on Mars, that's even more challenging, the sheer size of the rockets you'd need to do this would be absolutely colossal," said Baker.

He also says it is inconceivable that a project that dumped people on a faraway planet with no way home would be allowed by the authorities.

"The public won't tolerate governments putting astronauts, high-profile citizens' life on the line and potentially saying 'well, we can't guarantee their safety'. The public will say 'no, perhaps we shouldn't be doing this.' Human life is much more important these days than I think it ever was in the early days of space explorations," said Baker.

Mars One's first unmanned supply mission with 2500 kilograms of spare parts, solar photovoltaic panels, and general supplies is planned for launch in January 2016 and a landing on Mars nine months later. In 2018 a robotic rover is scheduled to begin building the settlement and will start broadcasting video to Earth.

The company's plan will see the first lucky humans arriving some time in 2023, their subsequent lonely lives recorded by uninterrupted video transmission to Earth, which will follow them to their dusty grave, broken only by occasional advertisements.