Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

WSU and ASU professors urge one-way Martian colonization missions

20.10.2010
Proposal would cut costs dramatically, ensure long-term commitment

For the chance to watch the sun rise over Olympus Mons, or maybe take a stroll across the vast plains of the Vastitas Borealis, would you sign on for a one-way flight to Mars?

It's a question that gives pause to even Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a Washington State University associate professor, who, with colleague Paul Davies, a physicist and cosmologist from Arizona State University, argues for precisely such a one-way manned mission to Mars in an article published this month in the "Journal of Cosmology."

In the article, "To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars," the authors write that while technically feasible, a manned mission to Mars and back is unlikely to lift off anytime soon – largely because it is a hugely expensive proposition, both in terms of financial resources and political will. And because the greatest portion of the expense is tied up in safely returning the crew and spacecraft to earth, they reason that a manned one-way mission would not only cut the costs by several fold, but also mark the beginning of long-term human colonization of the planet.

Mars is by far the most promising for sustained colonization and development, the authors conclude, because it is similar in many respects to Earth and, crucially, possesses a moderate surface gravity, an atmosphere, abundant water and carbon dioxide, together with a range of essential minerals. It is the Earth's second closest planetary neighbor (after Venus) and a trip to Mars takes about six months using the most favorable launch option and current chemical rocket technology.

"We envision that Mars exploration would begin and proceed for a long time on the basis of outbound journeys only," said Schulze-Makuch. "One approach could be to send four astronauts initially, two on each of two space craft, each with a lander and sufficient supplies, to stake a single outpost on Mars. A one-way human mission to Mars would be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet."

While acknowledging that the mission would necessarily be crewed by volunteers, Schulze-Makuch and Davies stress that they aren't suggesting that astronauts simply be abandoned on the Red Planet for the sake of science. Unlike the Apollo moon missions, they propose a series of missions over time, sufficient to support long-term colonization.

"It would really be little different from the first white settlers of the North American continent, who left Europe with little expectation of return," Davies said of the proposed one-way Martian mission. "Explorers such as Columbus, Frobisher, Scott and Amundsen, while not embarking on their voyages with the intention of staying at their destination, nevertheless took huge personal risks to explore new lands, in the knowledge that there was a significant likelihood that they would perish in the attempt."

The authors propose the astronauts would be re-supplied on a periodic basis from Earth with basic necessities, but otherwise would be expected to become increasingly proficient at harvesting and utilizing resources available on Mars. Eventually they envision that outpost would reach self-sufficiency, and then it could serve as a hub for a greatly expanded colonization program.

The proposed project would begin with the selection of an appropriate site for the colony, preferentially associated with a cave or some other natural shelter, as well as other nearby resources, such as water, minerals and nutrients.

"Mars has natural and quite large lava caves, and some of them are located at a low elevation in close proximity to the former northern ocean, which means that they could harbor ice deposits inside similar to many ice-containing caves on Earth," said Schulze-Makuch."Ice caves would go a long way to solving the needs of a settlement for water and oxygen. Mars has no ozone shield and no magnetospheric shielding, and ice caves would also provide shelter from ionizing and ultraviolet radiation."

The article suggests that, in addition to offering humanity a "lifeboat" in the event of a mega-catastrophe on Earth, a Mars colony would provide a platform for further scientific research. Astrobiologists agree that there is a fair probability that Mars hosts, or once hosted, microbial life, perhaps deep beneath the surface and Davies and Schulze-Makuch suggest a scientific facility on Mars might therefore be a unique opportunity to study an alien life form and a second evolutionary record.

"Mars also conceals a wealth of geological and astronomical data that is almost impossible to access from Earth using robotic probes," the authors write. "A permanent human presence on Mars would open the way to comparative planetology on a scale unimagined by any former generation… A Mars base would offer a springboard for human/robotic exploration of the outer solar system and the asteroid belt. And establishing a permanent multicultural and multinational human presence on another world would have major beneficial political and social implications for Earth, and serve as a strong unifying and uplifting theme for all humanity."

Although they believe the strategy of colonizing Mars with one-way missions brings the goal of colonizing another planet technologically and financially within our reach, Schulze-Makuch and Davies acknowledge that such a project would require not only major international cooperation, but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of the Earth's exploration.

They write that when they raise the idea of a one-way Mars colonization mission among their scientific colleagues, a number express an interest in making the trip.

"Informal surveys conducted after lectures and conference presentations on our proposal, have repeatedly shown that many people are willing to volunteer for a one-way mission, both for reasons of scientific curiosity and in a spirit of adventure and human destiny," they write.

And yes, Schulze-Makuch offered that he too would be prepared to "boldly go" on a one-way mission to the Red Planet. But he hedges just a bit, holding out the single caveat that he would want the launch to wait until his young children have all grown into adults.

The complete article from the 2010 Volume 12 issue of the Journal of Cosmology is available online at http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars108.html,

The Journal of Cosmology is published by Cosmology Science Publishers and publishes original contributions in the fields of Cosmology, Astronomy, Astrobiology, and Earth & Planetary Sciences, including those concerning biology, genetics, geology, climate change, meteorology, physics, celestial mechanics, astrophysics, particle physics, paleoastronomy, chemistry, panspermia, abiogenesis, extinction, and the origin and evolution of life.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wsu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

05.12.2016 | Information Technology

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>