One-way trips to Mars on horizon

  • Article by: PATRICK KEVIN DAY , Los Angeles Times
  • Updated: January 12, 2013 - 5:20 PM

A Dutch company will start taking applications soon for a 2022 blastoff to the Red Planet.

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This handout image provided by NASA, taken Sept. 28, 2012, is a mosaic of images taken by the telephoto right-eye camera of the Mast Camera before the rover arrived at Rocknest. Mars Curiosity is about to sip its initial taste of the red planet's sand. But first, NASA's rover has to play bartender to make sure the dry dust is shaken, not stirred.The rover's scoop will dig into the sand Saturday. Then the action starts. Mission sampling chief Daniel Limonadi said the end of the rover's arm will shake vigorously and noisily for eight hours, like a Martian martini mixer gone mad. That will vibrate the fine dust grains through the rover chemical testing system to cleanse it of unwanted residual Earth grease. (AP Photo/NASA)

Photo: Colleen Kelly, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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LOS ANGELES - In 1990's "Total Recall," Arnold Schwarzenegger had a simple directive to himself: "Get your ass to Mars." Now a nonprofit Dutch company is promising to help real-world tourists do just that.

Mars One has announced plans to establish a colony on Mars by 2023 and it's about to begin looking for prospective Martian pioneers.

While the requirements for NASA's astronaut program are demanding, assuring only the finest and fittest of humans will ever make it into space, Mars One is casting a wide net. Its requirements are resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust, creativity and resourcefulness.

What about the ability to fly a spaceship or solve unforeseen, unimaginable problems being one of the first humans on an alien planet? Those, evidently, are skills that one picks up with time.

Mars One only asks that applicants be at least 18 years of age (they will be 28 by the time they land on Mars), speak English and don't have any pressing business on Earth -- ever. This is a one-way kind of deal.

After submitting themselves to the selection process, the chosen astronauts will then be entered into a full-time training program that will prepare them for their 2022 blast-off date. In the meantime, Mars One plans to send preparatory probes and rovers with supplies to the planet as early as 2016. The first group of four colonists will follow a few years later, with a new team of colonists arriving every two years after that.

How does this group expect to fund this effort, which would surely cost in the multiple billions of dollars? Reality TV, of course! Mars One plans to televise every aspect of the mission and involve the whole world in the run up to the launch. As Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft says in Mars One's introductory video, "This is going to be a media spectacle. 'Big Brother' will pale in comparison."

So in other words, while NASA astronauts will be walking in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong, potential Mars One astronauts will be walking in the footsteps of Donald Trump.

The Mars One project is the brainchild of co-founders Bas Lansdorp, an entrepreneur who previously founded the wind energy company Ampyx Power; and Arno Wielders, who also works as a payload study manager for the European Space Agency. These two aren't alone, of course. The company's website features a whole roster of international scientists who are serving as advisers.

Though the video introducing the mission makes it seem very simple, there are many complications springing from a manned mission to Mars that science is only beginning to seriously grapple with. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, a recent 17-month simulated Mars mission in Moscow revealed that the sleep habits of crew members would be dramatically affected, as would their output during the months-long trip to the planet.

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