By: Nicole Willett
A lot of media coverage has occurred over the past several months regarding sending humans to Mars. Many people get the proposed missions mixed up and sometimes facts are falsely reported. This blog is an attempt to focus on a few of the organizations/companies that have serious Mars proposals underway. The Mars Society feels strongly that sending humans to Mars is a top priority for our civilization and we wish good luck to all missions that are being proposed.
In 1990 Dr. Robert Zubrin, President and founder of The Mars Society, and David Baker proposed a mission called Mars Direct to NASA. Zubrin later published his book titled The Case for Mars, where he expanded on the details of the mission. The mission involves a series of launches. First, a spacecraft lands on Mars first without human occupants. This craft is the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) and it will act a fuel manufacturing station in order to provide fuel for the future human explorers to return to Earth. The Habitat Unit (HU) will arrive with a crew of 4 humans approximately 26 months later. There will be many ERV’s and HU’s sent to the Red Planet in succession. An ERV will be fueled and ready at all times and the HU’s will be interconnected in order for a larger and larger living space to be available for the increasing number of human occupants. Human exploration and settlement of Mars is the mission of The Mars Society. Zubrin states, “The time has come for humanity to journey to the planet Mars. We’re ready. Though Mars is distant, we are far better prepared today to send humans to the Red Planet than we were to travel to the Moon at the commencement of the space age. Given the will, we could have our first crews on Mars within a decade.”
SpaceX is a company founded by Elon Musk. He was the recipient of the 2012 Mars Pioneer Award at the 15th Annual Mars Society Convention. SpaceX is the first privately owned company to launch cargo to the International Space Station using the Falcon 9 rocket. They have also had a successful test flight of the Grasshopper rocket which launched vertically approximately 800 feet, moved horizontally about 300 feet and then landed safely by descending vertically. Musk has a goal of enabling thousands of humans to go to Mars for permanent settlement. His vision is to first send a small crew of about ten humans to Mars, utilizing reusable Falcon Heavy rockets. He plans on continuing to send more and more humans to settle on Mars with the hope that his first Martian colony has a population of about 80,000 people.
Inspiration Mars was founded by Dennis Tito. He is the first private citizen to pay to be taken to the International Space Station. His company recently released their design report which outlines their plans and their timeline for the mission. The highlights of the mission are as follows: a two person, 501 day unprecedented human flyby mission to the Red Planet to launch during the launch window in January 2018. The justification for a flyby versus landing on the surface is that it is much less technologically daunting and the risk is much lower for the human explorers. Inspiration Mars believes that this historic event will pave the way for future Marsonauts to land on the surface at a later date.
Mars One is headed by Bas Lansdorp. This is a non-profit organization that plans on launching a four person capsule to land on Mars in 2022. There will be several steps in this process. In 2016 a supply mission will be sent ahead, in 2018 a rover will explore the terrain, and in 2021 rovers will assemble habitats and life support systems. By 2022 the four person crew will land on the surface of the planet, followed every two years by four person crews. Mars One hopes that this will be the beginning of the first permanent human settlement on Mars.
[From The Mars Society’s Founding Declaration]
The reasons for going to Mars are powerful.
We must go for the knowledge of Mars. Our robotic probes have revealed that Mars was once a warm and wet planet, suitable for hosting life’s origin. But did it? A search for fossils on the Martian surface or microbes in groundwater below could provide the answer. If found, they would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and, by implication, reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view learning our true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.
We must go for the knowledge of Earth. As we begin the twenty-first century, we have evidence that we are changing the Earth’s atmosphere and environment in significant ways. It has become a critical matter for us better to understand all aspects of our environment. In this project, comparative planetology is a very powerful tool, a fact already shown by the role Venusian atmospheric studies played in our discovery of the potential threat of global warming by greenhouse gases. Mars, the planet most like Earth, will have even more to teach us about our home world. The knowledge we gain could be key to our survival.
We must go for the challenge. Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The time is past for human societies to use war as a driving stress for technological progress. As the world moves towards unity, we must join together, not in mutual passivity, but in common enterprise, facing outward to embrace a greater and nobler challenge than that which we previously posed to each other. Pioneering Mars will provide such a challenge. Furthermore, a cooperative international exploration of Mars would serve as an example of how the same joint-action could work on Earth in other ventures.
We must go for the youth. The spirit of youth demands adventure. A humans-to-Mars program would challenge young people everywhere to develop their minds to participate in the pioneering of a new world. If a Mars program were to inspire just a single extra percent of today’s youth to scientific educations, the net result would be tens of millions more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors. These people will make innovations that create new industries, find new medical cures, increase income, and benefit the world in innumerable ways to provide a return that will utterly dwarf the expenditures of the Mars program.
We must go for the opportunity. The settling of the Martian New World is an opportunity for a noble experiment in which humanity has another chance to shed old baggage and begin the world anew; carrying forward as much of the best of our heritage as possible and leaving the worst behind. Such chances do not come often, and are not to be disdained lightly.
We must go for our humanity. Human beings are more than merely another kind of animal, -we are life’s messenger. Alone of the creatures of the Earth, we have the ability to continue the work of creation by bringing life to Mars, and Mars to life. In doing so, we shall make a profound statement as to the precious worth of the human race and every member of it.
We must go for the future. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological society. It is a New World, filled with history waiting to be made by a new and youthful branch of human civilization that is waiting to be born. We must go to Mars to make that potential a reality. We must go, not for us, but for a people who are yet to be. We must do it for the Martians.
At The Mars Society we believe that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, with the understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds.
[Image Credit: The Mars Society, SpaceX, Inspiration Mars, Mars One]