Ask Ethan #20: Is the Mars One crew doomed?

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." -Antoine de Saint Exupéry

It's the end of the week here, so it's time for another Ask Ethan column! Today's question comes from longtime reader and fan Jeremy F., who wants to know about the feasibility of the planned Mars One mission. In particular,

I hope 4 people don't just fly to their death, that would be terrible for my chances of getting to Alpha Centauri or Vega before I die.

No kidding. Let's go back to the beginning and tell you just what Mars One is all about.

Image credit: NASA. Image credit: NASA.

The dream, of course, is to build a human colony on Mars. It's been over 40 years since humans walked on the Moon, and we were able to do that in an era where the most technologically powerful computer on Earth was less than 10% as powerful as an iPhone. This has long been a dream of manned spaceflight advocates everywhere, and as my favorite Mars advocate has been stating for decades,

"We are much closer today to being able to send humans to Mars than we were to being able to send men to the moon in 1961, and we were there eight years later. Given the will, we could have humans on Mars within a decade."

And I firmly believe that this is true. But we don't have the will, and more importantly, neither does Mars One.

Image credit: Mars One / Bryan Versteeg. Image credit: Mars One / Bryan Versteeg.

Think about the things that need to happen to have a human colony achieve some measure of success on Mars. All-inclusive, we need:

  • A way to successfully launch heavy payloads from Earth to Mars,
  • Enough shielding to prevent catastrophic disease from the cosmic-and-solar radiation that our magnetic field and atmosphere normally shield us from on Earth during the long journey to Mars,
  • A way to navigate through the Martian atmosphere down to the surface without either burning up or moving too fast by time you reach it,
  • A successful gentle landing for any sensitive (i.e., human-containing) payloads,
  • An enclosed, habitable environment that is sufficiently isolated from the lethal Martian outsides, and
  • Enough resources to self-sustain (or continuously resupply) the living creatures who've gone.

Studies done through NASA have continuously come back -- since the 1990s at least, and possibly even earlier -- showing that this could be done with existing technology. All it would require is an investment of approximately $50 billion over a 10 year timescale.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

The launch part is easy enough. The greatest limitation to launching a spacecraft to Mars is the launch window, which means there's about a two month window every 780 days where we should be launching our missions. Because of the relative orbits of Earth-and-Mars, if you want to both minimize the amount of fuel needed to reach Mars and also the amount of time spent in transit to Mars -- getting the journey down to around 8½ months -- you need to launch just prior to Earth passing Mars in its orbit, which is where the 780 day period comes from.

Launches -- particularly of heavy payloads -- are expensive and not without risk, but that technology already exists, and has a decent enough success rate that, based on Mars One's current plans, I think is likely to succeed. In fact of the 51 total missions ever sent to Mars, only nine have failed on launch, and only three of those failures have come in the past 20 years.

If you were an astronaut chosen for the Mars One mission, especially given the fact that the first unmanned launch is currently planned for 2018 and the first manned mission isn't slated for another three launch cycles, you'd have every reason to believe that your spacecraft would successfully launch with very good odds of success.

And honestly, the second part of the journey -- the 8½ month journey to the red planet -- should be pretty straightforward, too.

Image credit: NASA / Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Image credit: NASA / Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

We've already had humans survive in outer space for very long periods of time, for consecutive stretches considerably longer than 8½ months aboard Mir and with non-consecutive stretches aboard the International Space Station. So long as the same precautions -- a basic level of shielding in the hull -- were taken aboard the Mars One manned transit capsule (or whatever they wind up calling it), there should be no problems.

Yes, there's always the risks that in-flight resources will be poorly managed, that technically problems will occur, and that someone on the crew will go crazy; they're planning on financing this on a reality-TV-show model, after all. But realistically, it's certainly not a stretch to think that they can make it all the way to Mars without a problem.

Unfortunately, that's where my optimism for the mission ends.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, overlay of lander/rover sites via Wikipedia. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, overlay of lander/rover sites via Wikipedia.

These are the landing sites of all the previous successful landers and rovers on Mars. All of them. There are eight, including Mars 3, which failed 15 seconds after landing, and Mars Phoenix, which surprisingly failed spontaneously after 5 months. Even including these as "successes," that's fewer than half of the attempts to land on Mars.

Landing on Mars is tremendously difficult for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Mars has a terribly thin atmosphere, less than 1% of what we have on Earth. Using the atmospheric drag to slow down requires huge parachutes for this reason.
  • Even though the atmosphere is very thin, the Martian winds blow very quickly and unpredictably, so that there's pretty much an inherent uncertainty in where you're going to land by about 20 kilometers.
  • For example, the Phoenix mission had its parachute deploy 7 seconds later than expected, and it landed about 28 kilometers off course due to that. It was projected to land in an ellipse maybe 100 km across on the longest axis, and it landed right at the edge of that projection.
  • And you can't control it remotely, either; there's about a 14-to-20 minute round-trip light travel time to Mars in the windows where the landings would occur, so there needs to be either an automated landing system, or someone on board needs to be an expert pilot capable of landing the spacecraft.

It's worth stating that the technology capable of landing a spacecraft carrying the weight of multiple humans on Mars has not yet been developed.

Image credit: NASA. Image credit: NASA.

To land the Curiosity rover on Mars -- an inanimate object about half the size of a Smart Car -- an entirely new landing technology needed to be developed, and was tested for the very first time on the mission itself. That it was a success was fantastic, but that alone cost over a billion dollars to develop, and that was for a rover that weighed about 900 pounds, landing in the most precise ellipse ever: 20 km by 7 km. (Dark ellipse, below.)

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS.

The methods used for the other rovers -- which was to drop them in giant airbags that would bounce -- wouldn't have worked for something this massive, much less for a capsule with a bunch of sensitive meatbags inside.

What Mars One is counting on is that they can safely land a heavier payload than ever before, that they can do it more precisely than ever before (as in, within just a few hundred meters of previous successful landings), and they can do it for only 12% of the projected costs, with a total estimated budget of just $6 billion instead of the $50 billion price tag to do it right.

It's an ambitious plan, but looking at it through my eyes, I see it as an opportunity to to be the first humans to be launched to Mars, to travel around 100 million kilometers to journey to the red planet, to descend through the Martian atmosphere, and to die, in short order, on the desert-like surface. And I don't see very much opportunity for it turning out any better than that.

But others do, and maybe they know something that I don't. Maybe they're sitting on a new technology that they haven't unveiled to the world. But I'd be very cautious here. Going to Mars is the obvious first step in our journey to the stars, something that seems all but inevitable as part of our dreams for reaching out into the Universe.
Image credit: Battlestar Galactica. Hey, why not? Image credit: Battlestar Galactica. Hey, why not?

I just don't think hoodwinking and exploiting a bunch of naive explorers, killing them horrifically in short order because you sold them a false promise of what they could've achieved, is the way to do it. There's a right way to get to Mars -- by investing the time and resources to do it rigorously and to the best of our ability -- and then there's the Mars One way: make it into a spectacle. Sometimes you flip a coin and it lands on its side, I get it; I just wouldn't bet on those odds. As far as I'm concerned, Jeremy (and everyone else), yes, the Mars One crew is doomed from the get-go, and most likely, a lot more quickly than anyone involved with the organization is willing to admit.

Have a question or suggestion for what you'd like to see? Ask away! And if you've been missing out on all the great content on the new Starts With A Bang at Medium, there's never been a better time to catch up!

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Of course missions like the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina in 1587 were essentially suicide missions (the settlers disapeared before the relief ship arrived). Jamestown came close as well in the 1609-1610 winter with only 60 of 500 europeans surviving. Or look at the Scott expedition to the south pole in 1911. Or the efforts it took to reach the top of Everest, with failure meaning death as well. So the history of exploration is full of folks who are willing to take the gamble. (Plus how many ships crossing the atlantic from 1500 to 1650 just vanished?)
At the time it appeared the risk reward ratio was in their favor but it did not turn out that way. The south polar expeditions might model how a similar mars expedition would turn out since in both cases food would have to be brought along at least for a good while.

'It's like climbing Mt Everest'... yeah, like climbing Mt Everest, with the crew from DoubleDare.

By Darth Shawn (not verified) on 18 Jan 2014 #permalink

Curiosity is 900kg. One ton being the largest payload we can soft land on Mars currently without some major breakthrough (they maxed out on that rover). Mars is considered pretty mush pessimal for landing purposes... too much air and wind to rocket down nicely like on the moon, not enough air to glide or chute in like on Earth.

I am also very pleased to see that Ethan identifies the problem of landing a crewed payload on the surface of Mars as the principle obstacle MarsOne must overcome in order to be successful. I completely agree. Indeed, I agree so much that I decided to make Mars entry, descent and landing systems the topic of my masters thesis (I am currently an aerospace engineering graduate student at Purdue University).

What I can say is that, while Ethan is exactly correct the we do not at present have the technology available to land an interplanetary crewed vehicle (20-50 tonne) on the surface of Mars, many very intelligent people (including my advisor) are working to find a way. And MarsOne seems to have adopted exactly the correct strategy in light of the difficulty with Mars EDL. For example:

1) They are planning to make extensive use of inflatable habitats, to keep the landing mass low.

2) The parts of the habitat that are composed of a solid structure will be landed in pieces, and assembled robotically. Again, avoiding the problem of landing a 20-50 tonne vehicle on Mars (as most past estimates have assumed).

3) The missions are planned in much the same philosophy of Apollo, where there are several preliminary missions planned with smaller (un-crewed) payloads sent to Mars to test whatever EDL strategy is developed before humans are ever put in danger.

All in all, Ethan is exactly right that we have yet to develop a technology that can land anything more massive than Curiosity (~1 tonne) on Mars. Even with the above strategies, I would be surprised in MarsOne is able to keep the landing mass under 10 tonnes. It will not be easy by any means (exploration never is).

But an order of magnitude improvement in landing mass is within the reach of the strategies that are being researched at NASA centers and universities all over the country (including, I am proud to say, my own). 20 years is a long time in aerospace research. Given the current state of the field, I would be very surprised if a workable solution to human rated Mars EDL was not found by the time MarsOne is ready to send its first astronauts on our one way journey.

I say "our journey" because, if this wasn't clear yet, I am one of the 1058 MarsOne applicants who was fortunate enough to make it to the second round of applications.

My application:
On Facebook:

By Max Fagin (not verified) on 18 Jan 2014 #permalink

Phobos as relay station:

1) Send humans to Phobos to tele-operate robotic research devices on Mars. The mission of these devices is to locate areas that may be suitable for eventual colonization, for example areas close to natural ice deposits that could be mined for water.

2) Next, build a long-term colony on Phobos. The Phobos colonists would at first have two tasks:

a) Tele-operate robotic construction equipment on Mars, to do the grading & excavation for an eventual Mars colony.

b) Practice at landing heavier payloads on Mars. The payloads would consist of containers flown in from Earth to Phobos, loaded with Phobos gravel (using robotic excavators similar to those used on Mars), and then launched to Mars from Phobos. This should be less costly than lifting all that mass from Earth. One of the goals of this step is to develop the means to land as precisely and gently as possible, guided by the humans on Phobos rather than by autonomous robotics.

3) Next step is landing those heavy payloads on Mars and then launching them back to Phobos. This would test technologies for launches of self-contained vehicles from the surface of Mars.

4) After that, Phobos becomes a relay station for colonists and equipment going to/from Mars. This continues until we develop satisfactory means to launch directly from Earth to Mars and then Mars to Earth.

5) Eventually, Phobos might be useful as a relay point for missions to the outer planets. It seems reasonable to expect that the orbital dynamics are such that there are points in Phobos orbit that provide time and/or efficiency advantages for such launches as compared to launches from Earth.

What's amazing to me is how "cheap" everything has become and we still don't do it as a planet.

When I say cheap, I mean 50 billion$ as a world, as a species is peanuts.

To put it in perspective, Bill Gates has 78billion$, Buffet 60 billion, Walton's togehter almost 100 billion etc., Japan has loaned TEPCO almost 50 billion$ after tzunami, US spending in Iraq for 3 years... almost 250 billion $... and so on...

So as a world... to start colonizing new worlds, it takes half of what one person has as his own fortune... And there are hundreds of billioners out there... On the scale of nations, it becomes even more insignificant.

So why are we still peddling in shallow waters...?

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 18 Jan 2014 #permalink

I am almost agree that technology will develop over decades and a trip to mars will be more safe after 50 years than after 10 years, but...
After 50 years I guess people are not willing to go anywhere. I see it everyday - every next generation wants more and more sit just comfortably behind computers. Max can it be a pure robotic mission only.

By john smith (not verified) on 18 Jan 2014 #permalink

IMHO the biggest danger is that people go to Mars and then human nature follows true to form and the follow on support mission get neglected by way of political/budgetary demands and/or it it turns into a Floyd Collins situation where a manageable emergency, people trapped and potentially dying on Mars, is allowed to linger on for political or commercial reasons. Expect a media circus.

As so often happens in this sort of situation, the relief effort is scattered, manipulated, bungling. The end result is that, "although everyone tried their best" there were false starts, conflicts, and delays and "unfortunately" relief arrived too late to save the brave astronauts on Mars.

To get a feel for how such things happen look into the Floyd Collins story:

Picture 21st century 24/7 media saturation, marketing, tie-in products. For every Mars burger rescue package, with booster option, you buy $.001 is contributed to the Super Looper/ Ratheon/ Crusty Burger rescue effort.

Why dump the intended payload in one lump? Design the load out of several smaller compartments which deploy at differing altitudes on a guided path. That would, in turn, decrease the chances of losing the mission in one foul swoop.

I just don't see what the rewards are here that make the risks worth taking. The main payoff seems to be the golly-gee-wow factor of having 4 people on another planet, which amounts to a kind of exo-tourism, albeit one-way. Mars itself seems dull as dirt and lethal to boot, and with the current technology it's just not possible for them to become even remotely self-sustaining anytime in the reasonably near future. This isn't science. It's entertainment.

By dr_mabeuse (not verified) on 19 Jan 2014 #permalink

We have to leave Earth at SOME point.

We need to find out how. By experience.

Re. Art @ #8: Agreed, never underestimate the ability of people of ill will to profit from others' misery. That can be prevented with a properly designed mission and overall program.

Re. Dr_Mabeuse @ #10: Depends on whether you mean "Mars One" or Mars colonization generally. Mars One could decay into reality TV unless is more closely resembles a conventional space program.

The rewards of Mars colonization, properly carried out, are not only the direct science, but also the same pragmatic benefit as "off-site backup" of critical business data. A technological civilization on Mars, complete with self-contained ecosystems of Earth-originated life, and its own indigenous capacity for interplanetary travel, is our off-site backup in the event of planetary catastrophe on Earth. The same case extends to interstellar colonization, and to the question of what happens to the lineage of Earth when the Sun increases luminosity and renders Earth uninhabitable.

Name one human civilization that willfully decided to put itself out of existence. Name one human mythos that concludes with "and then we all decided to perish."

Life seeks to live. Life will seek to continue to live beyond planetary and solar catastrophes. We are morally obligated to give them the option. More to the point, we are obligated to not deny them the option by trashing the ecosystems and regressing ourselves to cavemen or the screen-gazing equivalent.

Or to put it in religious terms, the reward is similar to "eternal life," that the lineage of Earth continues to exist until the end of the last accessible star in the cosmos. Is that good enough?


"I just don’t see what the rewards are here that make the risks worth taking"

well, think about this.. if your ancestors had the same mindset as you, you wouldn't be here. Regardless of where you are on earth.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 19 Jan 2014 #permalink

Another way to look at it is you'll be dead no matter what you do, so why not do this?

Yeah, ultimately the truth is that there is no meaning to a life if it was cut off and cannot contribute to their group. It would be a fate worse than death.
After the initial launch and journey and even safe landing on Mars, what then for those poor people?
A short life staring out of a port window to some lifeless foreign hell reflecting on how they could rather be standing in a park, listening to the voices of people talking, the smell of the green grass and the sound of wind in the trees.
Man, get the video on them in their last moments of life up in that space-pod whatever right? That should be fun

By Matt Sowerssrsbry (not verified) on 20 Jan 2014 #permalink

Mars one team doesn't seem seem up to the task. they need Huston.
"Huston we have a problem."

"The final cost of project Apollo was reported to Congress as $25.4 billion in 1973...
In 2009, NASA held a symposium on project costs which presented an estimate of the Apollo program costs in 2005 dollars as roughly $170 billion.
The Space Review estimated in 2010 the cost of Apollo from 1959 to 1973 as $20.4 billion, or $109 billion in 2010 dollars, averaged over the six landings as $18 billion each."
So, Ethan's $50 billion cost estimate in 2013 dollars is pretty cheap.

MarsOne is a nice suicide mission to Mars; but maybe not a waste of talent.
But for something more robust; we need geopolitical competition, i.e. China.… So once China is perceived to be serious; well then we can expect serious interest from the U.S..

Until China is seriously in the game; well it's amateur night/reality TV time with MarsOne.

Nevertheless, if I was a little bit older (90 years or older) and demented; I too might volunteer for MarsOne: the last adventure of a lifetime.

Commercial exploitation of any difficulties is just the beginning. Much more concerning is that every plan I've come across, perhaps unavoidable, is that there has to be a very long term commitment in anything other than an absolute one-shot, one-way, kamikaze exploration scenario.

What happens when you establish a settlement in a fit of enthusiasm for space exploration and national pride but then, possibly over a decade or more, the shine wears off and the enthusiasm and commitment fade in the light of tight budgets, earthly demands and desperate needs.

What happens when more pressing needs occupy the news cycle for several years in a row and distant voices concerned with far away astronauts seem to fade.

Consider the fate of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC):

Until they figure out how to deal with the dust on Mars, any long turn trip, even to the moon, would be suicide.

This is just folly plain and simple. Who would want to live in a bubble for the rest of their life? This is nowhere near analogous to embarking to the New World, those people were still chasing dreams that only Earth can provide. Mars is death outside of a insulated capsule. These poor saps will be so limited in their movement, they won't even get to enjoy Mars .. rather they will get a peek of desolate landscape through a window.

Humans are specialized for Earth, we're not supposed to go anywhere else. If you want Life to take root elsewhere, you can't possibly be human-centric .. you have to start with single cell organisms. Panspermia is the only realistic scenario (and it's most likely how we got to Earth). Once Life starts evolving (and thus becoming specialized to its environment), it naturally becomes less likely to survive outside of said environment.

Sorry folks, we as humans aren't going anywhere. IT'S OK - we have a beautiful planet to enjoy. 100 years of science fiction has glorified this kind of adventure .. but it just isn't going to happen. Even if humans make it there eventually, the outpost will soon be abandoned as the settlers will either go crazy or yearn to return to Earth. This is pure fantasy.

"Yeah, ultimately the truth is that there is no meaning to a life if it was cut off and cannot contribute to their group. It would be a fate worse than death."

Matt, not to be mean, but when you die, you'll have had ABSOLULTEY NO EFFECT on the life of billions of people.

Is that a fate worse than death?

All things considered, I will be astonished if Mars One literally gets off the ground. The monetary cost alone means that it's unlikely to happen.
However, that's a good thing. Reading what you said, Ethan, a trip to Mars to set up a colony would almost certainly end in disaster. We don't yet have the technology.
Having said all that, I believe we will get to Mars. It's not a question of if, but when. In fact, you and I may actually live to see it.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 20 Jan 2014 #permalink

"a trip to Mars to set up a colony would almost certainly end in disaster."

Just like every other event.

In the 60's, you would have been demanding that the expense of the Apollo program was far too high and would end in disaster, wouldn't you?

@Wow, did you miss the last bit of what I said?

I believe we will get to Mars. It’s not a question of if, but when. In fact, you and I may actually live to see it.

The fact that I think this Mars One project is wishful thinking is not the same as permanently naysaying that we will land on Mars.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2014 #permalink

"@Wow, did you miss the last bit of what I said?"

Sorry, did you miss where I quoted the passage I was responding to?

Yes, doomed.

For input, follow the curiosity rover page. They have hundreds of pictures of just the wheels, to try to understand the wear and tear from driving around on the surface. And there are some big holes in the metal wheels.
Look at them, and tell me how easy it's going to be to have a safe habitat on the planet, and how it's going to be easy to bring all the materials from N landings together.…

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 21 Jan 2014 #permalink

"well, think about this.. if your ancestors had the same mindset as you, you wouldn’t be here. Regardless of where you are on earth."

Sure. And if they had the same mindset as the Mars One folks, I also wouldn't be here.

There's a happy medium between "Too scared to try" and "too stupid to succeed."

"Sure. And if they had the same mindset as the Mars One folks, I also wouldn’t be here."

You mean "Lets not move from here, we're safe here, and we may be eaten by dragons if we cross that land bridge out of Africa..." would have had you be there, where you are?

I doubt that, entirely.

CB says, "There’s a happy medium between “Too scared to try” and “too stupid to succeed.”"

So Ethan has a new blog.
But if you go there;
There isn't this mess.

There may be more readers or less; but we don't know.
Is it like a trip to Mars (when we get there; there will be no one else there); or is it like a gated community in the suburbs (when you get there; there are only other yuppies).

Jane Jacobs famous book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities is still relevant today. I thought it was relevant mostly to big cities in the world. Not so much the smaller cities; and not so much the car friendly cities; the big people friendly cities. But I have come to see that it is also relevant to internet blogs.

Living in cities is messy. Yet for all of the tradeoffs people choose to live in cities. Come to think of it; I'd rather live a few messy years in any big city in the world (or even a little town) than be part of an unsustainable experiment of MarsOne (even at 90 years old). Mars to be of interest, has to be capable of a city. It can be a little town at first; but to be sustainable it has to have diversity and the bit of a mess that comes with that.

Right now, Ethan's new blog isn't messy enough to even be a small town. It certainly isn't messy enough to be a university. It may be the internet equivalent of a gated community or MarsOne or of . I'm not sure why?

Thinking upon Jane Jacobs; I think that the lack of messiness is a deliberate design flaw. Part of it is due to the requirement for a twitter account and requirement that this comment is too long (and hence I must self edit or design it to work) on Medium.

I mean it would take too much work to even try to cut and paste this over in Medium.

That said, I still like the new Start with a Bang on Medium.
But where is the city, the messiness, the diversity of ideas from crackpot to profound?

Check it out, go there if you like it. And I still will.
But this mess here of 27 comments (so far), well...

Well MarsOne and Medium will not work unless they have the possibility of the necessary messiness of cities.

I believe that maybe NASA is planning to send (bipedal) Robonauts first in some form or other way way before the issue of lethal radiation is solved. The Robonauts could someday 'proof in concept' build a potential habitat with greenhouses working with water and oxygen problems solved way before humans get there (if it happens at all). Roboticizing and getting everything working before humans get there increases survival odds substantially. If it is done correctly robotics would even have built the infrastructure for the return trip.

By Mark A. Thomas (not verified) on 21 Jan 2014 #permalink

Watching people die of asphyxiation and/or radiation poisoning and/or starvation is not my idea of inspirational or uplifting...even for television. It actually sounds more like an incredibly expensive and wasteful snuff film which would attract a similar type of disturbed audience. An interesting calculus to perform might be to consider how many people you could put through college, or life saving surgical procedures could be conducted instead of sending a few tourists to die excruciatingly on Mars for television ratings.
The only logical thing to send to Mars is robots. Send robots to try and see if any mechanical self sustaining establishment is even possible or feasable before trying to put a far more demanding and complex organism like a human there.


I wasn't talking about Mark One project directly. I was talking about space exploration and eventual settlement on other planets, as a whole. Will people die? Of course. Will it be hell in some scenarios? Sure. I doubt early settlers of any place had much fun. But still we spread and thrived. So will we with other worlds.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 21 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Watching people die of asphyxiation and/or radiation poisoning and/or starvation is not my idea of inspirational or uplifting"

So don't.

However, here's something that will worry you forever: today there will be dozens of people who will die from one of those things.

Wow, I've been reading your comments. You appear to have totally misunderstood our arguments.
Our arguments are not against landing on Mars. Our arguments are not against setting up a permanent colony on Mars. Our arguments are not against colonising a planet outside our solar system. (I believe that we will eventually do all 3.)
Our arguments are against Mars One. Our arguments are against an ill thought out program that will be fodder for a reality show. Our arguments are against a half-cocked plan that, if it lands on Mars, will likely result in the deaths of the four people on the lander.
Learn the difference.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Wow, I’ve been reading your comments. You appear to have totally misunderstood our arguments."

You haven't displayed any arguments.

You've whined. you've complained. You've gainsaid and refused.

You've not actually given any arguments for your position, though.

But maybe you're using the same definition as Cleese used, rather than the one Chapman was using.

To repeat one of my arguments:

a trip to Mars to set up a colony would almost certainly end in disaster. We don’t yet have the technology.

That's an argument.
Also, please point out where I've gainsaid and refused. Otherwise I'm going to call "troll".

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

"To repeat one of my arguments:
a trip to Mars to set up a colony would almost certainly end in disaster."

That's not an argument, dear.

Wow, you left out the "We don't yet have the technology." part of Julian's post. A crucial part of his argument, I suggest.

Take a step back and read it more slowly - I know you can read his comments with a bit more charity.

Myself, I think a Mars trip that ends badly would set back space exploration. Even if the folks are willing to put their life on the line, there are larger effects to consider.

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Wow, you left out the “We don’t yet have the technology.” part of Julian’s post."

It's an assertion that can be post-hoc defined to ensure that it is true.

It is no less wrong to claim "We DO have the technology".

"Myself, I think a Mars trip that ends badly would set back space exploration."

Well, yes. Of course it would.

A trip to the shops that ends badly would set back your life. That doesn't mean you don't go to the shops.

What do you think a successful trip to Mars would do for space exploration?

If you're thinking "Duh! The answer's OBVIOUS, innit!", then why did you make the claim you did?


"I think a Mars trip that ends badly would set back space exploration"

this might not be the case. Just as Challenger disaster didn't set back space station building and effort. Nor do Mount Everest deaths set back the number of people willing to climb it.

I don't see a problem with Mars One. It's a small team of guys/girls, privately funded, who are willing to put their lives for something they want to do. How is this hurting anyone, or how is this different from anything else man wants to do?

I won't go into weather or not it's doable. I personally think they are not the people for the job. But on the other hand, space exploration has a future ONLY if it settles in the private market. With dreamers and doers. Every new voyage is high risk. From first crossing of the Atlantic in an airplane to Gagarin in space. All of them knew it could very well be a one-way journey. That's how progress goes.

If this was something funded by tax payer money, and it was done like Mars One, then yes, I could understand the negative attitude of some here. But since it's not your family on board, and it's not your money making it... why bitch?

Any and all efforts are a move in right direction. If Mars One is doomed, fine... it will provide many information for someone new along the line, who will use that and upgrade it to something better.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

Well yes there are risks and benefits to any action. So let me look at the evidence and come to my personal opinion!

Why bitch? Doing a Mars One style project prematurely would preclude doing it right, albeit later.

As for the first Atlantic plane crossing - you have to admit that going to Mars one-way is thousands of times harder. Imagine doing that, but without tested landing gear, landing in the Mojave desert with no water or food, except what you carry.

Why the negative attitude? Any successful project needs some optimists and pessimists! I need you, and you need me, cue Barney, exeunt stage right.

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Well yes there are risks and benefits to any action."

So why mention only the risks?

"Why bitch?"

Yes, why?

"Doing a Mars One style project prematurely would preclude doing it right, albeit later. "

No more than the failed experiments in flight stopped the Wright brothers doing it right later.

"Why the negative attitude? Any successful project needs some optimists and pessimists!"

But it doesn't.

And even if it did, it doesn't mandate that you pick one and stick with that. Moreover, it doesn't warrant wibbling on about your pessimism and claiming the "optimists" are wrong or in error.

"and you need me"

I've done well all my life without you.

I feel no pain at the lack and expect none in future were you never to appear again.

Ok, every successful project I have been a part of has needed optimists and pessimists. They also have to know how to work together to make something. Why do I emphasis the risks? Eh, somebody has to.

I'm not your enemy - I just think you're being overly optimistic. "I'm sure those O-rings will work below freezing, go ahead and launch." - not the only answer out there.

Don't be so tetchy, come over and have a beer! I'm also an optimist who thinks pessimists and optimists can get along, wibbling or not.

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Ok, every successful project I have been a part of has needed optimists and pessimists."

It's required floors and ceilings too.

"As for the first Atlantic plane crossing – you have to admit that going to Mars one-way is thousands of times harder."

no, not really. Doing the Atlantic in 1920's and Mars in 2020...
Much of what you are arguing about space travel to Mars in terms of technology was similar in airplane capabilities at that time. They were basically cardboard boxes tied with strings and powered by a diesel motor.

Like I said before, personally don't believe MarsOne will ever even liftoff with live crew. But I am cheering all of those who want to try, because eventually one will succeed.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

" Imagine doing that, ...landing in the Mojave desert with no water or food, except what you carry."

Well, that's their choice. It has no bearing on should they do it or not. They know where they are going. And I can understand that some would be willing to die right there and then just to be able to leave earth, be in space and see mars with their own eyes.

So none of this is argumentative on why MarsOne is bad. Will it fail? Probably. IMO it won't be so dramatic as some have written here. IMO it will be much more down to earth thing, like running out of funding, or delays in production. I don't think they will make a spaceworthy sheep capable of doing what they need in just 6 years

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 22 Jan 2014 #permalink

uhhh Hello? can we fix our energy and CO2 crises and the whole destroying our climate thing first? before we spend any money on a junket to Mars?

Well, for a start, we're not fixing any of that because there's no money in it.

Secondly, there are 7 billion of us. We can multitask.

Thirdly, the cost of fixing is less than 1% of GDP for a few years. We can afford to do more than just that.

Thank you so much for sharing...and so frequently too!
I'm glad you have an opinion. I just wish you weren't such a douche about expressing it every time you respond practically everyone...almost every few comments. Just because someone disagrees with your fantastic opinions and doesn't share in your immense appreciation of your own unrecognized genius does not justify your rather consistent unfounded rudeness, and inability to consider what others have to say. Get over yourself soon so you can grow up a little and learn a few social graces that will allow you to actually talk 'to' people and interact intelligently instead of just talking down to them and pissing them off.
As for your claimed position or argument:
If you think going to Mars is a great idea for whatever reason, you are going to need to convince other people of why it is a worthwhile thing to do. You most plainly have not done this, the exact opposite actually. You have mostly just insulted or belittled other people's concerns about the immense risks and costs involved, and implied that the value of their lives is of little or no worth, either to you or humanity, (a nihilistic position) especially with such memorable lines as "Matt, not to be mean, but when you die, you’ll have had ABSOLULTEY NO EFFECT on the life of billions of people." and "I’ve done well all my life without you.
I feel no pain at the lack and expect none in future were you never to appear again. " Comments like this from you are not the dialogue or emotional outlook of an optimist of any kind, but do fit neatly into the profile of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) which is determined by having five or more of the following traits:
•Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
•Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
•Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
•Requires excessive admiration
•Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
•Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
•Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
•Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
•Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
I am aware you show strong indications of at least five of these traits in your responses from this last blog topic and previous topics discussed on this blog site. With your present disposition, you should consider counseling or at least some serious self redaction if you wish to successfully convince others that water is wet, and fire is hot, much less if going to Mars is in their best interests to support.

"I’m glad you have an opinion. I just wish you weren’t such a douche about expressing it "

Irony 101.

See above.

"If you think going to Mars is a great idea for whatever reason, you are going to need to convince other people of why it is a worthwhile thing to do."



Because: see the topic of the post. It's already been done and found, dear.

"You most plainly have not done this"

For reasons given above.

"the exact opposite actually."

Ah, so I've put you off, who were never going to be going anyway...

OK, sorry, how did I do the exact opposite again?

"You have mostly just insulted or belittled other people’s concerns about the immense risks and costs involved"

1) "Immense risks and costs" is rather begging the question, isn't it?
2) Aren't all of you mostly insulting the group setting up Mars One and the people involved?

•Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

e.g. thinks that since they won't see any benefit, it shouldn't be done

•Believes that he or she is “special” and unique

and that if this doesn't benefit them, it's of no use

•Is preoccupied with fantasies of

unmitigated disaster, of which they were the wise prophet of doom (tm).

•Lacks empathy

e.g. it doesn't matter if the people involved want to do it, they shouldn't be doing this at all.

Or should that be "fakes empathy so that their wishes can be defended with passive-aggressive bullshit a la "won't SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN!!!"."

•Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

Irony 102. See above!!!

•Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Irony 103!

You might want to stop digging.

Mars suicide pacts aside,
Remember how by evidence you presented, you stated it does not really matter if the math is correct or not, black holes exist? Well... there might be a bit of a problem with that viewpoint now. Stephen Hawking has just come out and said black holes as postulated in theory might not actually exist, or at least work they way they were speculated to, which then calls into question how they would appear to observation.…

So now the story changes. At this rate, calling anything a black hole might not be a good idea until a more accurate methodology is invented to classify which 'black hole like' model is being used to describe a particular observation. The whole singularity/event horizon premise might in fact be as bogus as Mr. Crothers said for the same reasons. I think Hawking might also be trying to walk back many of his theoretical black hole claims as others are now scrutinizing his math and methods more carefully.

C. Takacs,

A large number of physicists, myself included, have taken to NatureNews for publishing an article with such a misleading title. Black holes certainly exist, and the firewall problem has now been proven not to be a problem by two independent means: once by a team of authors I wrote about here, and more recently by Sabine Hossenfelder.

But you get a big name like Hawking, Polchinski or Susskind saying something about black holes, and the science media is all over it, regardless of their merits. In other words, there's nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Keep focusing on your blog.I enjoy reading websites like these.It has been an nice source of info.
Thanks for this wonderful article.Good stuff...

By Zahid Hasan (not verified) on 25 Jan 2014 #permalink

@Wow, without using the 'D' word, I can say it would be more pleasant interacting with you if you could tone down the hostility.
If you are unable to tone down the hostility, I understand. It's just a bit sad, as it means I won't be able to perceive the good points you do raise, amidst the invective.

So please, again, moderate yourself so I can learn from you. (and maybe vice versa, too?)

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 26 Jan 2014 #permalink

"D" word?


PS look up "passive aggressive".

You might want to stop digging. "

Sorry dear, was that the "D" word there?

But of course you'll be able to back up your claims, right? I mean, you're not just making up vague sounding near-accusations that have no method of verification, but merely a method of making out that something is being done badly somewhere by someone somehow and anyone "as smart as you" would see it, is it?

I think a good way of a manned mission to Mars, would be to start sending 'robots' to plough a smooth enough runway for a shuttle to land (like a tundra shuttle), depending on air density, or perhaps find an area with good thermals for the approach. In the 'robot plough' missions include large sail type wings (like a glider) that can be attached to the shuttle for the departure then jettisoned once out of the atmosphere. A shuttle can be re-used and could save a lot of money, it would be a shuttle like nothing seen on Earth, would need a much larger wing area, but could still carry a good payload up to or equal to the usual space shuttle. Also, hardware like satellites can be put into orbit around Mars and better maintained with the aid of a Mars based shuttle.

Oh, another thing, the Mars Shuttle could remain in orbit around the Earth ( to save costs, weight on titanium/carbon tiling), so small rockets can be used to man the shuttle which would include a small pod for returning to Earth. Perhaps the ISS could be modified to accommodate the missions. Just some passing thoughts :)

Reading it, i noticed one glaring flaw in the article. Mars One is not proposing to land more accurate than ever before, certainly not as precise as just several hundreds of meters. On multiple occasions i have heard that they are planning to land the modules within a 30 kilometer radius, although I am not sure on the exact figure, it was something in that order. The two rovers will be used to haul the modules to the site of the colony.

By Kelkschiz (not verified) on 27 Jan 2014 #permalink

In future, such an orbiter, at mars-o-stationary (cromulence!) orbit could be used for nanotube elevator cables.

Kelkschiz, I believe that the orbital accuracy may be 30km, but there will be options for pilot corrections, so as not to land half on a cliff face... And the location decided will be considered useful if it can be safely landed with a few hundred meters of pilot option.

...I can offer gratis a one wheel-barrow of manure for a new beginning on Mars. It is strange that NASA does not want to take a one load of it up there. It should work. ...Why not to try to do it?

By Stanislaw Miasik (not verified) on 28 Jan 2014 #permalink

Living on Mars won't be possible in the near future. Even they failed many times I know they will still find ways to make it possible. Good luck!

Well you make some points but also two big mistakes.
First of all, the capsules will be send first. If they fail no humans will ever go and if they do not fail that it means they are able to land people on mars safely. So it's not like they sending people to die.

Yes if that landing will work is maybe the biggest question but that will be answered long before the people go.

The other mistake you make is about it having to be more precisely than ever before. Only partly true. The first mission that is part of creating the settlement will be a rover. It would be nice if that would be precise but it does not have to land within just a few hundred meters of some specific spot. Plus it can drive so while it might not drive 20 km it does not have to land exactly in one spot.

The rover will then search for a spot and that is the spot where indeed the other stuff needs to land (within just a few hundred meters). However now the rover will send out a location what makes landing in one specific spot much easier, also for an automated system that can't be guided from earth.

By Nobody_Anybody (not verified) on 31 Jan 2014 #permalink

There is an old SF story, "The Martian Way", don't recall the author. There is an established Mars colony, but Earth is getting tired of shipping them water, and is ready to shut the colony down. The Mars colonists have space ships, and go out into the astroid belt and hook onto a large water ice astroid, take it home and deposit it. Then they tell Earth to shove it, that they can make it on their own.

In science fiction, two ways to deal with difficult planets are often in a story. First is terraforming, making Mars like Earth. How to go about that, how long does it take, what are the costs? The other is adaptaman, genetically altering humans to live and thrive under the difficult conditions. I suspect the technology for that is nearer fruition than the technology for terraforming.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 03 Feb 2014 #permalink

"We’ve already had humans survive in outer space for very long periods of time, for consecutive stretches considerably longer than 8½ months"

Ethan, I think you underestimate the difficulties and hazards that the journey to Mars will pose.
Firstly you can't really compare man's prolonged stay in Low Earth orbit to the 9 month journey to Mars, humans in Low Earth orbit are largely protected by Earth's magnetic shield, the Mars crew will not have the benefit of this natural protective shield and the human body would be subject to a variety of cosmic rays that can't simply be protected against with a water barrier.
Could humans survive a 9 month trip without the protection of the Earth's magnetic shield, well we don't know because it's never been tested before, and the long stay Low Earth orbit experiences are not really a valid measure to compare against.
The other key difference between Long stay low Earth orbit ventures and the Mars trip is that with low Earth orbit the crew had a bit blue Earth in constant view, when the clear blue of the Earth disappears behind them how will the Mars crew react, again we don't know because it has never been "tested" on humans before, but if the Apollo astronauts experiences are anything to go by, the view of a gradually disappearing Earth is likely to have a very dramatic effect on the crew.
China is planning to land a man on the Moon by 2014, so that kinda puts Landsdorp Mars fantasy into perspective.
Simply put safely transporting humans to Mars will NOT be achievable by matter how much funding Landsdorp manages to secure.
I kinda think Landsdorp knows that his target of 2013 is pure fantasy, but I Landsdorp simply wants the accolade of the man who started the Mars colonization ball rolling..........ultimately the Mars one project is quite likely to fail by year 5 if not before hand.

Sorry typos in my above post!

I meant 2024 (China's Moon landing)
"transporting humans to Mars will NOT be achievable by 2013"

I meant 2023!

If we need to colonise another planetary body then cut your teeth on the moon. Learn and get it right.
Establish the moon as the base for further exploration and launch from there.
Small steps like a baby.
We are a long way from terra forming as depicted in science fiction so why would you want to live there? A lot more efficient to send a few well organised machines that can send back as much data as we need and a heck of a lot cheaper.

By Aldo Manganaro (not verified) on 15 Feb 2014 #permalink

There are too many science fiction junkies here that are not dealing with reality; too many who have watched too many episodes of Star Trek, or the movies “Silent Running” “Moon”, and “Total Recall” and believe they were not science fiction movies but real.

NASA has already stated that they have no spaceship that is capable of a manned spaceflight to Mars. Anyone that states that NASA or anyone else, e.g., Virgin Galactic, has a spaceship capable of a manned mission to Mars is full of BS and lying!

NASA is projecting that maybe by the 2030s they might have the capability; but, that assumes that all the technical and medical issues can be solved, which they have not been yet. Some may not be solvable, e.g., negative effects of weightlessness or radiation on the human body.

There are other problems for NASA. NASA does not know how to store the huge amount of rocket fuel needed for a manned mission to Mars. There is currently no way to lift the huge payload that will be needed. We have reached the theoretical limit of current rocket fuel. NASA has no idea how to land a heavy object on Mars. E.g., the Apollo rocket ship weighed over 100,000 pounds. The Apollo lander weighed about 30,000 pounds. The curiosity weighed about 2,000 pounds. The landing of the curiosity was called "7 minutes of terror."

And, please don’t rant about fusion power; mankind is centuries away from a rocket powered by fusion; and, it may not work. It is another idea that sounds good in theory; but the devil is in the details. Maybe Warp drives like on the Starship Enterprise are possible too. When pigs fly!

If you don’t believe what I have stated, please write NASA. NASA will confirm everything I have just stated.

Despite what the science fiction junkies believe, there is no way to grow food on Mars, replenish the oxygen and water supplies, and no way to protect the folks from radiation and toxic Mars dust. There is no way to keep the folks warm for months, and the list goes on. Even, if by some miracle, a manned rocket does land on Mars, the people will be dead within a few weeks or months if not resupplied from earth every 3-6 months, which will most likely be impossible.

And, all you fantasy-land folks that state think they can dig underground and build the shelters to protect from space radiation are delusional. There is no way to get heavy digging equipment to Mars. And, there is no heavy digging equipment that will run on batteries. And, if there were, the batteries would have to be huge and weigh tons, which will be impossible to get to Mars. So, there is no way to run the equipment. What you science fiction junkies saw in the movie “Moon” is not possible except in science fiction movies.

It is just possible that man cannot live in space away from earth for more than 6 months or a year without dying. NASA is doing more research on this in 2015 by having one astronaut and one cosmonaut stay at the ISS – International space station for a year – they currently stay for less than 6 months because of the harm that is caused to the human body – and that is in LEO – Low Earth Orbit where the ISS is protected by the earth’s magnetic field. And, the longer you stay in space in such small quarters, the greater the risk of going insane or becoming very unstable.

No human has been exposed to deep space radiation for more than 8 days, the Apollo missions. Assuming that humans can survive a 3-6 month trip in deep space to Mars is insane without further testing. NASA will have to test this before they attempt a manned mission to Mars.

You science fiction junkies are not dealing with reality.

It took over 10 years and 31 shuttle missions to build the ISS at a cost of over $250 billion. Bas Lansdorp is going to get to Mars for $6 billion. Is that with Monopoly money?

Then there is the failure rate on unmanned missions to Mars; it is about 50%. To assume that the first manned mission to Mars will be a success is pure folly.

Many of the people in the above posts have tried to explain reality to you science fiction junkies, but it goes in one ear and out the other.

The idea that you have to die sometime, so why not die quickly on Mars is absurd; it just shows the immature mentality of many of the folks posting.

NASA on the other hand is very mature and safety of the astronauts is a primary. NASA will not send a manned mission to Mars unless they are pretty sure that everyone will get back to earth safely.

And, please don’t give me that quack rhetoric about how if man had not tried to explore earth where would we be. It is like comparing apples to elephants. Sailing on wooden ships to explore earth did not require people to wear spacesuits with an air supply or to live in pressurized cabins. The temperature on those wooden ships was not minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit and the sailors were not bombarded with deep space radiation that could kill them within 3 months. Also, they weren’t confined to a very small living space and could go up on deck and walk around. They could also fish for food. They could also stop at islands along the way and resupply. And, they usually carried sufficient supplies of food and water for the journey.

Mars Ones is a big scam, and Bas Lansdorp should be thrown in jail.

Beam me up, Scotty.

This nonsense that we have to leave earth eventually is entertaining at best - very delusional and not doable now or ever. Again, too many science fiction junkies.

There are about 7 billion people on earth today. Taking 4 passengers at a time, it would take 1,750,000,000 missions to Mars to get everyone there. Then what?

And, once you get them there, then what do you do. Where would you get the materials to build housing for 7 billion people, provide air and water, food, etc.?

Let's say you just want to take 100,000 people. Again, taking 4 at a time would take 25,000 missions to Mars.
Then what do you do with 100,000 people on Mars.

Let's say you only want to get 1,000 people to Mars. At 4 people per mission, that would take 250 missions. Then what? There is no way possible to get the materials to Mars to support 1,000 people. And, it would take probably 250 resupply missions every 3-6 months.

Anyway, people who make statements that we must eventually leave earth are either very young or have no grasp on science or logistics; and, most likely are science fiction junkies.

Most likely when the Earth's Sun begins to burn out, earth will burn up and everything living on earth will be dead.

Again, beam me up, Scotty.

So what are the people that make that delusional statement thinking?

If the world is coming to an end, we are all doomed. There is no place to send everyone and no means.

We will never have spaceships that are capable of traveling to other galaxies, and even if we did, where would they go?

Without resupply from earth, they are doomed.

Part I

There are a number of inaccurate statements and wild assumptions made by Ethan.

It is a fact that almost 45 years ago NASA did land Apollo 11 on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and had 5 other successful landings, Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and the last #17 on December 7, 1972.

What is overlooked about the Moon landings is how much trouble was caused by the very abrasive toxic Moon dust. The Moon dust caused parts of the Moon rover not to work properly and made it difficult to move arms in space suits, and it got over everything in the Lunar Module and caused breathing problems. The dust on Mars, which contains Perchlorate, is most likely more abrasive and much more toxic than Moon dust.

NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust

“These particles can wreak havoc on space suits and other equipment. During the Apollo 17 mission, for example, crewmembers Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Gene Cernan had trouble moving their arms during moonwalks because dust had gummed up the joints. “The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack’s boot,” Taylor says. And, this was only after a few hours of walking in the abrasive Moon dust.

It is true that the computers today have chips that are must faster than those used by NASA in 1969. But, NASA had to solve only one problem - guidance. That being said, no modern day iPhones are capable of landing a spaceship on the Moon or Mars. It is not clear why iPhones were mentioned in this article; iPhones have no relevance to anything about space exploration. Just because we have super iPhones does not get us closer to landing people on Mars.

I guess the iPhone analogy was mentioned as a red herring to distract the readers from the many difficult obstacles in a manned mission to Mars; some are possibly insurmountable obstacles (e.g., negative effects on the human body from staying in weightlessness for prolonged period of time, space radiation).

In 1969, “NASA had to solve only one problem -- guidance -- and could easily afford to have a custom system designed and built for them using cutting edge components and techniques.”

NASA currently has the best and fastest computers on the planet; however, having the fastest and most powerful computers does not solve most of the problems that are stopping manned missions to Mars or colonizing Mars.

And, yes science fiction dreamers or junkies like Robert Zubrin think it is possible to colonize Mars. But, Robert Zubrin is just speculating and does not add anything to the equation.

Lots of people make wild Arse statements, but provide nothing in tangible technology as to how it will be done.

The devil is always in the details.

Until dreamers can turn their dreams into tangible working machinery, what they have to say is totally worthless. They should stick to written science fiction novels.

Then, for Ethan to make the statement that the only reason we have not colonized the Moon or Mars is because we don’t have the “will” is absurd.

I would agree that Mars One does not have the “will”; because Mars One is a scam by a very good snake oil salesman – Bas Lansdorp, whose only claim to fame is the Ampyx Power Company and his PowerPlane, which is a total joke, i.e. flying big gliders high above earth on cables to generate electricity.

Ampyx Power was funded entirely by grants from green energy save-the-earth companies that were funded by governmental grants paid for by the taxpayers of the Netherlands. Ampyx Power has not sold one PowerPlane or generated one dollar in sales revenue since it was founded in 2008. Lansdorp was able to sell most of his interest in Ampyx for a few million, which he partially used to start Mars Ones, which is a non-profit company. However, Mars One is the controlling stockholder of the for-profit interplanetary Media Group, a global reality-TV company, which is owned primarily by Bas Lansdorp. If Bas pulls this scam off, he will most likely makes millions in TV revenue even if everyone dies – it does not matter one way or another to Bas, since he will not be one of the people dying. And, Bas has no plans of actually going to Mars himself ever, which at least proves he is a sane crook.

It will take a lot more than “will” for a manned mission to Mars and even more to colonize it. It will take technology that has not yet been invented and trillions of dollars.

Then Ethan makes this statement that colonizing Mars is possible with today’s technology, which it is not:

“Studies done through NASA have continuously come back — since the 1990s at least and possibly even earlier — showing that this could be done with existing technology. All it would require is an investment of approximately $50 billion over a 10 year timescale.”


I have never read any study by NASA that has suggested that a manned mission to Mars or colonizing Mars is possible right now for a mere $50 billion over 10 years. Most likely, Ethan cherry picked information out of context from NASA statements; and then created this colossal lie. Let’s look at some facts.

Ethan must not have read the details published at the second annual Human 2 Mars Summit (H2M) held in Washington D.C. from May 6 to May 8, 2013.

“NASA says human Mars landing is feasible by 2030s… NASA says that it is developing the capabilities needed to accomplish a long-time goal of the space agency, the ability to land on Mars. NASA says it will send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s”

The above statement was made by NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars summit.…

Why would NASA say it is developing the capabilities to get to Mars if it already has the technical capabilities to get to Mars?

It wouldn’t. Ethan has taken something out of context to support his wild speculation.

Other facts:

The ISS – International Space Station cost about $150 billion and took over 10 years to build with 31 shuttle missions from earth. The ISS weighs about 990,000 pounds. It is only 230 miles above earth and protected by the earth’s magnetic shield. The average distance to Mars is 140 million miles. You would need at least 1 million pounds of equipment to build a small habitat on Mars capable housing 4 astronauts, similar to the ISS, with all the equipment needed to sustain human life, and would most likely take over 20 years to complete. The cost most likely would be at least $1 Trillion, and probably more.

The nonsense habitats that Mars One is talking about will not work on Mars. Bas Lansdorp should go to Antarctica and build a mock Mars Once colony with 4 people and see how it works. He should be required to use water recycling equipment for all his water. Let him set up solar cells to get all his electricity for heat and everything else he needs. Let’s see how much food he can grow in the Antarctica. It is actually much warmer in Antarctica with an average winter temperature of minus 30 F - Fahrenheit, versus minus 80 F on Mars. But, Bas knows that it won’t work on Mars or on Earth, so he won’t. After all, Mars Ones is a total scam. People that believe Mars One will work are not in touch with reality and are hopeless science fiction junkies, e.g., Ethan.

It is insane to assume that a colony could be built on Mars for $50 billion over a 10 year timescale. NASA has never made a statement to that effect.

I believe, we have the knowledge and resources to make this into success. Technology today is more advanced than most people know. The only thing that stops innovation from progressing fast enough is the financial element. But, since right now it's not a governmental institution sponsoring the mission, I don't see an excuse for a failure.

Well... I'm not that overly optimistic. Of course, I think things may go wrong, but I strongly hope that if they do, it won't be because of a budged cut. Whatever sceptics are thinking, humanity has gone a long way in the field of science and technology and is ready to accomplish a lot more than the media shows.

It's the applicants that concern me more. The introduction videos I've seen on the Mars One community has shown a lot of people who don't take it seriously. I've given my opinion on the matter in lots of places around the web (…) and I'm really hopeful the second round kept the most suited for the mission. I mean, seriously, technology can be improved, repaired and used properly, while human flexibility is subjective.

By Ashley Davidson (not verified) on 22 Jun 2014 #permalink

Well, at the very least...
Extraordinary technologies WILL be developed to try to survive a harsh planet which can kill soft & squishy, oxygen breathing meat bags in seconds.

Forget Mars.

Doomsday Preppers: get ready to purchase your very own, personal Mars survival kits.
We'll need them if any of us earthly meat bags have a hope in hell of surviving extreme, deadly, environments after we manage to screw up the EARTH'S fragile ecosystem.

To post #12 or to the username "woww" - Just to be clear we have left earth with humans already, lol. Not just to another planet is all.

By RoflWaffleTer (not verified) on 26 Nov 2014 #permalink

Total Recall was right in one sense.

That is, the horrific human cost of going to Mars. In the film the first settlers die of radiation poisoning and those that survive are permanently scarred.

In reality, just getting onto the Mars surface would probably kill half of those trying it. But as others have pointed out, people will always volunteer for such missions, even when they know they most likely won't survive.

I think they have contacted MARS Alien.So they are sending one way trip to interact with Aliens.But these Aliens will use this humans and attack on Earth on Year 2222.Be Careful.

By Susobhan Mukherjee (not verified) on 26 Feb 2015 #permalink

Estimates are the first will die in 68 days? Did anyone tell them it's likely they won't even make it to Mars since it takes like 9 months if i remember correctly.

You wanna land on Mars and have everyone live? Then send me. I'm the man for the job. If it breaks, I can fix it. If it fly's, I can fly it. If you want it to land, I can land it! My father was a Air Force hero. He was a member of theMach II club, flew 29 planes in his service, devoted to the U.S., D.F.C., Air Medal(5 times), Notorious ServiceAward, and my beast friend! And he taught me plenty and I aspire to be great, and have been in life more than allowed. I am the descendent of great men, including our 3rd President, John Adams. And I offer my service, my word, my passion, and my life, and insure that the others will survive, as long as there is a breath in my body, I will keep them safe and sound, So Help Me God.

By Glenn M. Gregory (not verified) on 02 Apr 2015 #permalink