One-Way Trip to the Red Planet Could Kick-start Colonization

Mars or Bust! One-Way Trip to the Red Planet Could Kick-start Colonization -The vast plains of Mars may be the most promising place beyond Earth for human colonization, but is it enough for a one-way trip to the red planet? Two researchers seem to think so.

In an article published this month in the Journal of Cosmology, Earth scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch and physicist Paul Davies argue that a manned one-way mission to Mars would not only make economical sense, but would also mark the beginning of long-term human colonization of the planet.

The researchers contend that while a manned flight to Mars and back is technically feasible now, the steep financial and political costs make such a mission unlikely to launch anytime soon.

And since the greatest portion of expenses will be incurred by the safe return of the crew and spacecraft to Earth, the authors conclude that a manned one-way mission to Mars would both cut costs and help initiate Martian 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 Barack 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.

Next stop: Mars

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.

But a one-way mission to Mars would be accompanied by obvious and undeniable 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 from 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 ( )

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