How much will it cost to go to Mars?
The largest obstacle for many space agencies is the cost of making it to mars. In fact, Mike Wall, a reporter from space.com, “A manned Mars mission would be incredibly expensive. NASA estimates peg the overall expenditures at about $100 billion over 30 or 40 years, Sherwood said, but those numbers may be too low”(Wall). Much of this cost comes from having to do research and development for the mission. This includes things such as more efficient modes of propulsion. They also have to find a way to keep humans alive and healthy in microgravity during their multi-million mile long journey to Mars, which is not as easy as it may seem. However, another program aims to do it for much cheaper, but at a higher risk. A CNN article by Ben Brumfield and Elizabeth Landau states that “the colony's budget comes in at ‘about $6 billion,’ Lansdorp said. ‘The $6 billion is for the first crew that goes there’”(Brumfield). Mars One is an independent company that aims to land people on Mars before NASA; however, once these astronauts have landed on Mars, it will be impossible for them to return. But a $6 billion price tag comes substantially cheaper than that of NASA’s Mars colonization program. For as crazy as it sounds that people actually want to partake in this program, there have been thousands of applicants for the program for the “one way trip to Mars”. While NASA and Mars One may be some of the main organizations that are contributing to landing humans on Mars... there are more.
What companies/ organizations are going to be involved? International or no?
"Space inspires citizens in every country. Seeing the progress of space programs in Iran, South Korea and China, our response should be: ‘Let's work together for the betterment of humankind’”
While NASA may be the space exploration giant of today’s society, there are others who are looking to get involved in the program. According to Bill Nye, chief executive officer for the Planetary Society, “There is no future for any of us in trying to suppress space exploration. Space inspires citizens in every country. Seeing the progress of space programs in Iran, South Korea and China, our response should be: ‘Let's work together for the betterment of humankind’”(Nye). Other countries have begun doing their own space programs, some for scientific exploration, others to create job opportunities for the citizens of those countries. As these countries continue to advance their technologies, NASA will be more tempted to work together with these other countries to speed up development of rockets to land humans on Mars, and for a lower cost per country. But partnership is not restricted to just government agencies. An article by Darren Domirez, a reporter for University Herald, reported, “SpaceX will launch series of unmanned "Red Dragons" at every probable time starting 2018. Such timing, however, only arrives every 26 months when Earth and Mars align”(Domirez). SpaceX is a space exploration firm created by Elon Musk, and their next mission is to help settle Mars. SpaceX will be partnering with NASA to land humans on Mars by 2030, and as mentioned above, they will use their rockets to launch supplies to the planet for humans to use during the colonization process. With all of these different people from all across the globe interested in the same goal, there has to be a good reason to go to Mars.
Why are we trying to colonize Mars?
One of the largest goals for many of these space-bound organizations is to colonize Mars. In fact, NASA’s “Journey to Mars” mission overview even says that they want to be able for humans to live independently from earth by 2030 (Journey to Mars). Giving humans the ability to live without having to make supply runs to Earth would make humans an interplanetary species, a massive achievement that was only a fantasy of science fiction only a few years ago. Becoming an interplanetary species also gives us a much higher chance of surviving for millions of years to come. According to Jessica Orwig, a senior video producer for Business Insider, “The only home humans have ever known is Earth. But history shows that surviving as a species on this tiny blue dot in the vacuum of space is tough and by no means guaranteed. The dinosaurs are a classic example: They roamed the planet for 165 million years, but the only trace of them today are their fossilized remains. A colossal asteroid wiped them out. Putting humans on more than one planet would better ensure our existence thousands if not millions of years from now”(Orwig). Being able to spread humans out among the other planets of our solar system will give us a higher chance of surviving should a cataclysmic event lead to the inability to live on Earth anymore. So with fair reasoning to travel to Mars, scientists now need to discover new ways to support humans to the Red Planet.
What technologies need to be developed (or have been developed) to safely allow humans to land and survive on Mars?
The first major problem with getting people to Mars is landing safely on Mars. Darren Domirez, reporter for University Herald, reports, “SpaceX's "Red Dragon" expedition will send out an unmanned space probe to planet Mars to know if it can pull off a soft landing on the Red Planet. Mars has a long-standing notoriety of being able to host human lives. Hence, more research is needed to prove such claims.” Mars has a significantly higher gravitational pull than the moon, and thus needs a different method of landing. Without a new landing method, sending a ship to Mars would be pointless as it would just crash land on the surface and lose its payload. Also, according to another article by Mark Wall from Space.com, members of NASA believe that we are going to need to find more efficient methods of generating electricity to sustain astronauts on Mars. More efficient methods of generating power need to be created so that the equipment and shelters that the astronauts are using can work. Without enough electricity, living on Mars would be extremely difficult. But if everything works, then theoretically the astronauts will survive just fine. But of course, it is not that simple.
What will happen to the Astronauts that go?
There are two different things that could occur. According to Kera Rennert, a reporter for CBS News, there is a way to get astronauts to Mars relatively cheaply, “but there's also a catch: there are no do-overs if you don't like life on Mars. As Lansdorp explains, it is not currently possible to launch return ships from the Red Planet.” This is the method that Mars One is using, where the astronauts that they send to Mars will almost definitely have no option but to remain on Mars for the rest of their lives. While this may sound like a bad idea, Mars One also plans on sending more people to Mars to carry on the colonization process. But that’s not the way it has to be. As aforementioned, NASA wants to land astronauts on Mars by 2030, but Barack Obama only gave permission for the mission as long as the astronauts will be able to return from Mars afterwards. However, Mars’ lower gravitational pull will have detrimental effects on astronauts, so returning from Mars might not be possible, according to Sean Martin from Express Newspapers. While this plan will be considerably more expensive to allow for re-take off from Mars, this gives astronauts the ability to return home to Earth instead of being stranded for the rest of their lives. But this program will likely only allow for professional astronauts, while Mars One is using strangers that meet certain criteria and are sending them to Mars, but before then (of course) they will receive several years of training to get them ready for all of the challenges they could potentially face in space. Overall, the efforts of these astronauts will allow humans, whether or not they are an astronaut, to travel between planets, and maybe one day, travel between several planets.