Friday, October 22, 2010

One Way Ticket To Mars

Space.Com: Mars or Bust! One-Way Trip to the Red Planet Could Kick-start Colonization.
"We envision that Mars exploration would begin and proceed for a long time on the basis of outbound journeys only," said Schulze-Makuch, who is associate professor in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences Washington State University in Pullman. "One approach could be to send four astronauts initially, two on each of two spacecraft, 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."

On Oct. 11, President Obama signed a major NASA act into law that outlines the agency's future in space exploration. The signing paves the way for a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025, with an expedition to Mars to follow sometime in the 2030s. ...

A manned trip to Mars would take roughly six months using available launch options and current chemical rocket technology, according to the new study. The Red Planet has atmosphere, moderate surface gravity, abundant water and carbon dioxide, and range of essential minerals – making it an attractive target for potential human colonization.

A one-way mission to Mars would be accompanied by obvious risks. However, danger is often an inherent part of exploration, and has been throughout history, the researchers said.

"It would really be little different from the first white settlers of the North American continent, who left Europe with little expectation of return," said Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University in Phoenix. "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 scientists stress that such an expedition would not amount to a suicide mission, but would instead culminate in a series of missions over time, with an eye toward suffiently supporting long-term colonization.

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

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