Saturday, June 22, 2024

Mars colonization poses uncertainty

Many of us have wondered whether it’s possible to live on other planets.

A Dutch nonprofit, Mars One, is determined to make that question a reality. Founded in 2011, they announced in 2013 that they were accepting applications for the first group of people to colonize Mars. That sounds like a great idea for many, myself included, but there’s a little catch: It’s a one-way trip. No one who goes on this mission will ever be able to come home.

More than 200,000 people signed up, according to one applicant, Sonia Van Meter, in an article in Time Magazine titled, “Why I’m Volunteering to Die on Mars.” In this article, Van Meter explains just that: How is it possible to leave everything you have ever known behind for an indeterminable future? She explains that, with a pool of 200,000 people, the odds of being chosen were slim, if not impossible.

She was chosen as part of a smaller pool of 100.

“I was sure my efforts would go nowhere, but at least I’d be able to say I’d thrown my hat in the ring,” she said.

For many, if not all, of these people, space exploration is something that inspired them since childhood. Personally, I can remember sitting at home watching “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” with my parents as a little boy, my eyes glued to the screen, fascinated with how cool it would be if this technology could ever be a reality.

For these people, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said this mission will include a seven-year training session on how to “repair anything that breaks, to take care of medical situations (and) they will know how to grow their own food.” However, Lansdorp said that the possibility of going back to Earth is not likely because we don’t have the technology to go back yet.

Crew training starts this year, with a demo mission and communication satellite launch planned for 2018. A Rover — a tiny four-wheeled vehicle — will travel the planet to find the ideal location for the outpost.

“A second Rover, two Living Units (habitats with breathable air being pumped in), two Life Support Systems (these will extract water from Martian soil and pump air into the habitat), and a Supply Unit are sent to Mars in 2022,” according to the Mars One website. “In 2023 all units land on Mars using a Rover signal as a beacon.”

With everything set up, Mars One hopes for “Crew One” to depart from Earth in 2024, with additional crews being sent out every two years.

However, some say this may require more research and analysis than is possible by the predicted launch date.

An MIT study said that the first crew will likely die within the course of two-and-a-half months. According to data from the International Space Station, an MIT graduate student, Sydney Do, determined that the crops needed for each person to consume enough food would take about “200 square meters of growing area.” If the crops are grown within their habitats, Do discovered that they would produce unsafe levels of oxygen.

If they use their nitrogen to balance out the excess oxygen, then they might eventually drain their nitrogen tanks for the settlers’ habitat. If they have an air leak, “the total atmospheric pressure would drop, creating an oppressive environment that would suffocate the first settler within an estimated 68 days,” according to an MIT News article.

Mars One hopes to fund the project by making a reality TV show about the settler’s lives on Mars.

“Everybody will be glued to their TV screens,” Lansdorp said.

If the MIT study is accurate, this could make for some strangely interesting television.

Regardless, I applaud these men and women all over the world who are brave enough to take that first step into space, knowing full well that they will never come back.

However, I could never take the leap.

Here, I have air, water, the occasional snowball fight, the sensation of the wind and sun on my face, a bed in which to sleep at night, trees to climb when I want to feel like a kid again and the comfort of knowing those I love are with me.

Many of us have wondered whether it’s possible to live on other planets, and now we might be able to find out.

This mission is filled with uncertainty, unease and excitement. But in the face of those emotions, we have one far stronger, one that has enabled us to accomplish all the scientific marvels of the modern age: hope.

Email Timothy Lyman at

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