Feeds

How to make boots on Mars affordable - One way trips

Space Cowboys oldster-pioneers to live in cave habitats

Intelligent flash storage arrays

One of the main limiting factors on a manned mission to Mars is the fact that, under normal assumptions, much of the stuff that travelled to the red planet would not be concerned with exploration but rather with bringing the crew back to Earth.

The solution? According to two scientists, it would make more sense for the first humans to set foot on Mars to stay there for the rest of their lives. Not only would this make the mission much cheaper and simpler - it would also, in time, ensure the human race's survival in the event of a disaster befalling planet Earth.

The argument is set out in a paper titled To Boldly Go by extraterrestrial water expert Dirk Schulze-Makuch and physicist/astrobiologist Paul Davies. The two boffins write:

We are a vulnerable species living in a part of the galaxy where cosmic events such as major asteroid and comet impacts and supernova explosions pose a significant threat to life on Earth, especially to human life ... Thus, the colonisation of other worlds is a must if the human species is to survive for the long term.

Schulze-Makuch and Davies say that a normal-type Mars mission with astronauts returning to Earth at the end would cost "an order of magnitude" more than the Apollo programme which put boots on the Moon, and thus it won't happen for a long time, if at all. But they think that the cost would be slashed "arguably by about 80 percent" for a one-way trip, suggesting a cost of only twice Apollo (one may note that NASA's funding has been cut substantially since Apollo finished).

Apart from cost, the scientists argue that a one-way Mars voyage would actually be better for the astronauts. Flight to the red planet using present-day chemical rockets means six months coasting through the interplanetary void. But beyond Earth's protective magnetosphere and atmosphere, space is a hell of dangerous radiation - and a ship or capsule of reasonable mass could offer its crew little in the way of shielding. Six months' radiation dose would be quite enough, according to Schulze-Makuch and Davies: it would be nothing short of cruel to make explorers cop another massive dose on the return trip - not to mention the fact that a year of zero-G and an indeterminate spell in low Martian gravity would make the return to Earth a painful ordeal requiring lengthy rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, Mars doesn't have a useful magnetosphere, and its atmosphere is so thin that it offers very little protection. But according to the two scientists there are plenty of useful caves there, inside which the early Martian colonials would find a radiation-safe environment. There ought to be some caves full of ice, too, which would be excellent as this would furnish not only water for drinking, irrigation of hydroponic crops etc, but also oxygen for breathing. According to To Boldly Go:

The first human contingent would rely heavily on resources that can be produced from Mars such as water, nutrients, and shelter (such as in form of lava tube caves). They also would be continuously resupplied from Earth with necessities that could not be produced from the resources available on Mars. This semi-autonomous phase might last for decades, perhaps even centuries before the size and sophistication of the Mars colony enabled it to be self-sustaining.

Schulze-Makuch and Davies admit that "considerations may be raised" against their idea to the effect that nobody would volunteer to go, or anyway nobody sufficiently sane and capable to do the job. But they say that's not true:

Informal surveys conducted after lectures and conference presentations on our proposal have repeatedly shown that many people are willing to volunteer for a one-way mission.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.