It has long been a dream for many living on Earth to colonize the ‘Red Planet’. Mars has been viewed for many years as a planet close to us with conditions that can possibly support life. With that said, Mars One is now selecting volunteers for an everlasting stay with one way ticket to Mars. Interested in further exploration, Mars One will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Starting from 2024, crews composed of four volunteers will depart every two years. Therefore, a search for aspiring space explorers began in April 2013 and up until now more than 200,000 have volunteered for getting a one way ticket to mars. This year Mars one have reduced its pool of astronaut candidates to only 100. Eventually, Mars one intends to choose 24 candidates who will have the opportunity to dedicate their life to the mission. Although most people would rather lose a leg than spending the rest of their lives on an isolated and cold planet, many space explorers have volunteered to leave keeping in mind the risks which this lifetime trip holds.
Before the takeoff to Mars, each volunteer will be put through eight years of training and isolated from the rest of the world for a few months. The purpose of this is to test their ability of living in close quarters. After their extreme training, each explorer will be pushed to the limits as it will take up to seven or even eight months to reach Mars. The four astronauts will spend their trip in a very small area, free from all sorts of luxury such as showering.
For someone who doesn’t share the dream this might sound suicidal, but for others it is a dream come true. Dreaming for new refreshing life, the volunteers will have a very normal life once they arrive on Mars where they will be living in more than 200 m2 interior space. The astronauts will be able to shower, sleep on beds, wear regular clothes and even harvest and prepare their own food. However, if they want to leave the settlement, they would have to wear a specially designed for the environment suit, as mentioned by the Mars One team.
To make life as normal as possible prior to the arrival of the astronauts, rovers will do most of the heavy construction work. This will leave the explorers with a short period of time to find their own routine and carry out valuable construction work and research.
While the first crew awaits, the second one, they will apply technology and physical labor to the construction of additional living and working spaces, using local materials. Mars One is working on additional concepts, such as building of tunnels and domes made from compressed Martian soil, which may be able to provide a breathable atmosphere for the astronauts to live in.
As part of their daily life, the astronauts who will be living on Mars, will have to conduct a great amount of research. They will research how their bodies respond and change when living in a 38% gravitational field, and how food crops and other plants grow in hydroponic plant production units. The research will also include extra-settlement exploration of the ancient and current geology on Mars. Also, much research will be dedicated to the determination if life was once present or now exists on Mars. Apart from submitting research reports, astronauts will also be able to share with everyone else on Earth what they find challenging and what they enjoy living on Mars.
In spite of the pros and cons of living on Mars, there are some risks and challenges that the volunteers have to be willing to take. It is not certain whether the flight will make it to Mars, because human space exploration is dangerous on all levels. A little mistake or an accident can result in a large failure, injury or even death. Each system and its backup must function without any problems or else the lives of the astronauts will be put to a great risk. Also carrying out a mission of this magnitude could have a high risk on their health, and moreover, it is hard to solve physical problems with technology. Without gravity the human body could suffer a serious amount of instability such as bone loss (one percent per month), fainting-spells, cognitive problems such as Alzheimer´s like symptoms, weakness and lack of cardiovascular fitness, and also muscle atrophy.
Apart from medical conditions, the volunteers could face weather problems as forecast on Mars is usually dramatic. During the day the temperature can be as warm as 20 C; however, during the night it can drop to -90 C. This huge difference can lead to dust devils and dust storms that can engulf the entire planet for weeks. Another bad aspect of the weather is that the winter temperatures can stay as low as -140 C which can cause the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to freeze and become dry ice.
As it can be concluded, potential astronauts will be facing many risks and challenges on the ‘Red Planet’. By going on this trip they will be giving up on the beauty of Earth such as the oceans, the forests and the mountains, but it will also mean missing the wars and the conflicts. While some might see it as a suicide mission, others see it as an opportunity for much better and peaceful life than the one on our planet Earth.
Exploring Mars is something that interests many people and those who have decided to start a new life on Mars will forever hold a part in our history.
By Pamela Tannous
Picture 1: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Picture 2: Cyril Rana, licensed under CC BY 2.0