November 16, 2010
One Way Trips To Mars First?

Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies argue that of a human trip to Mars was one way then costs could be slashed and the mission could be done much sooner.

A human mission to Mars is technologically feasible, but hugely expensive requiring enormous financial and political commitments. A creative solution to this dilemma would be a one-way human mission to Mars in place of the manned return mission that remains stuck on the drawing board. Our proposal would cut the costs several fold but ensure at the same time a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars in particular and space in general. It would also obviate the need for years of rehabilitation for returning astronauts, which would not be an issue if the astronauts were to remain in the low-gravity environment of Mars. We envision that Mars exploration would begin and proceed for a long time on the basis of outbound journeys only. A mission to Mars could use some of the hardware that has been developed for the Moon program. One approach could be to send four astronauts initially, two on each of two space craft, each with a lander and sufficient supplies, to stake a single outpost on Mars. A one-way human mission to Mars would not be a fixed duration project as in the Apollo program, but the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet. The astronauts would be re-supplied on a periodic basis from Earth with basic necessities, but otherwise would be expected to become increasingly proficient at harvesting and utilizing resources available on Mars. Eventually the outpost would reach self-sufficiency, and then it could serve as a hub for a greatly expanded colonization program. There are many reasons why a human colony on Mars is a desirable goal, scientifically and politically. The strategy of one-way missions brings this goal within technological and financial feasibility. Nevertheless, to attain it would require not only major international cooperation, but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays been replaced with a culture of safety and political correctness.

They advocate sending older crews. Though such crews would be unable to create self-sustaining populations. As I've previously argued, rejuvenation therapies would enable colonizing missions of much longer duration. If we wait 30 or 40 years for the rejuv tech then a Mars colony could start out with a population that could live and reproduce there for centuries. Send youthful polymath minds. The radiation damage of the trip could get repaired once the astronauts reach Mars. Robots (which will also be much more advanced in 30-40 years) could build up rejuvenation labs before humans arrived.

The Obama Administration is not keen on one-way trips.

President Obama informed NASA last April that he "`believed by the mid-2030s that we could send humans to orbit Mars and safely return them to Earth. And that a landing would soon follow,'" said agency spokesman Michael Braukus.

No where did Obama suggest the astronauts be left behind.

"We want our people back," Braukus said.

But what if some people were really willing to go on a one-way trip to Mars? Granted, they'd probably die sooner due to less advanced medical care. But what if they really wanted to go? Why not let them?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 November 16 11:48 PM  Space Colonization

Marky Mark said at November 17, 2010 1:01 AM:

This strikes me as somewhat analogous to the "yuk factor" that is encountered with bio tech/medical advances. At first exposure people are repulsed at the thought however over time they gradually come to accept it as normal. I remember the first time I saw a mouse with a human type ear on its back (the so-called "earmouse"). At first I could hardly bear to look at it. 15 odd years later the concept doesn't bother me in the slightest.

The point is that sending humans on one-way missions is something which I think the public could come to accept as normal relatively quickly following an initial period of uneasiness. Human nature being what it is though I'm not sure how you'd prevent "lord of the flies" type situations from eventuating amongst the crews.

Mthson said at November 17, 2010 1:47 AM:

"Ethics" has good purposes, but the study of how to make things inefficient is not one of them.

Brett Bellmore said at November 17, 2010 4:13 AM:

Remarkably, I didn't hear about this proposal first here. I heard it first yesterday, being attacked by Rush Limbaugh. That's publicity of a sort, I suppose.

It's not entirely clear they would die earlier: On the one hand, they wouldn't have direct access to Earth's best medical care. On the other, being in 1/3rd G might help longevity once they became decrepit. And, of course, it's risky predicting to what extent medical equipment could be miniaturized and automated in the next several decades.

But most dubious, IMO, is the assumption that we wouldn't develop a return capability before today's young astronauts reached retirement age.

Brett Bellmore said at November 17, 2010 4:37 AM:

As for the early colonists being past their reproductive age, out of concerns for radiation damage to the reproductive organs, I suggest IVF and frozen embryos. That's a VERY small package to shield, and could be sent along on a high energy trajectory after the colony was a bit more established.

jp straley said at November 17, 2010 8:21 AM:

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robertson.

Cool concept, you'd get a lot of takers. Moon colony first, then take off from there.

morpheus said at November 17, 2010 8:43 AM:

for historical record

and for the many clueless dummies

few facts

the secret us space program has bases on mars for 40 years

about 5000 people leave there permanently

and few hundred use jumprums to go back and for daily

if ur a cluless brain washed dummy u had no idea

and becouse u so ignorat u think im triping


morpheus said at November 17, 2010 8:50 AM:

oh yeah forgot

here is a link where u can start ur reaserch into the mars bases

if u not to ignorant


David A. Young said at November 17, 2010 9:41 AM:

Geeze, I'm glad Morpheus there opened my eyes. I hate being ignorant.

On a more pedestrian note, haven't we been having such one-way trips for millenia? Now-a-days we usually call it immigration. This is controversial?

CyclemotorEngineer said at November 17, 2010 10:50 AM:

The AARP is after me. Sign me up!

Russ Mitchell said at November 17, 2010 11:16 AM:

"We want our people back." Precisely the reason I'd like to go. Governments HATE right-to-exit situations.

One-way, please. Happy to eat the risks.

LarryD said at November 17, 2010 12:43 PM:

Immigration is not, in principal, one way. And it's often preceded by several explicitly temporary visits.

More to the point, establishing a colony without round trip capability means you cannot evacuate in case of disaster. I remind you of Campbell's Dictum: "Pioneering is the process of finding new and unexpected ways to die."

Phillep Harding said at November 17, 2010 1:26 PM:

Heck, I was willing to go back when I first heard of the idea of colonizing Mars.

Heinlein probably damaged the concept by writing so much about rebellions on Mars and Luna; who in power wants to spend money to lose part of his power by setting up a foreign colony? So far as I know, only the US did in setting up Liberia. Britain started to in setting up Israel, then tried to welch (pardon) on the deal when it took off.

Larry, "It's not'chu problem, mon."

Randall Parker said at November 17, 2010 5:17 PM:


Thanks for putting all of us in danger. "They" already know what you said by now and everyone whose IP address they traced to reading this page is now in danger. We'll all have to get knocked off in "accidents" to protect the secret.

Brett Bellmore,

I like the idea of sending young astronauts to Mars to live until retirement age. Though A 25 year old astronaut today would turn 65 in 2050. We might be able to send rejuvenation therapy to Mars by then to extend their lives. So no need to return.

Russ Mitchell,

Since taxes are going up this is a good time to leave.

Deedub84 said at November 17, 2010 7:50 PM:

It'll have to be a private venture; like all risky exploration governments aren't setup for it. The individual will have to risk and it will be financed privately. Don't think the gummint has the gumption nor the vision for such an adventure.

Bruce said at November 18, 2010 9:52 AM:

Suspended Animation.

" In 2005, cell biologist Mark Roth made headlines when he published the results of studies showing that exposing mice to small amounts of hydrogen sulfide would put them into a state of “suspended animation,” or hibernation, that could be reversed without ill effect.

The hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, slowed their metabolic activity by 90 percent, dropping their core temperature from 37 degrees Celsius to 11 degrees and reducing their respiration from 120 breaths a minute to less than 10 breaths a minute. The mice survived six hours in this state and, when re-animated, exhibited no signs of damage."

Dahinda said at November 18, 2010 11:50 AM:

One of the examples that was cited was that the early colonists to the Western Hemisphere did not expect to go back to Europe and that Mars would be colonized the same way. The colonists came here after there were hundreds of trips made by European explorers, semi-permanent settlements created, a lot of trade was carried out with the native population, and after there were many companies willing to sponsor settlements. The eastern seaboard of the future US had been dotted with seasonal settlements for years befor the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. This had the effect of spreading disease among the natives, decimating them. The residents trading from these settlements taught the natives English. Both of these factors helped the pilgrim settlement become successful. Similiar things were going on in Latin America at this time. I just see anything like that happening on Mars.

Phillep Harding said at November 18, 2010 1:32 PM:


Columbus established several colonies, leaving some of his crew behind to man them. I see nothing about those colonies being abandoned.

The English settlers were, so far as I can tell, city people, not competent to settle anywhere. From what I read, they were fortunate that epidemics had just wiped out the local Indians, leaving considerable food stores behind. Some were sufficiently ingenious they found a way to starve to death anyhow.

People headed for Mars would have considerable education, and should be selected for practical skills (unless politics intrudes with too heavy a hand). They would actually plan, and "faith in God" would not be a part of those plans.

th said at November 19, 2010 3:35 PM:

Is this going to conflict with NASA's mission to mecca?

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