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Mars Space Television Entertainment

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way 540

Posted by timothy
from the bring-plenty-of-coffee dept.
NASA's been solicited ideas for exploring Mars, but Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is already planning a different kind of trip than is likely to come from the U.S. government. Lansdorp's Mars One project has the goal of putting humans on Mars in 2022, with a twist that might dampen many people's hopes to be a Mars-exploring astronaut: the trip Lansdorp plans is one-way only. That means dramatically less fuel on board, because unlike typical Mars voyage plans, there would be no need (or ability) to carry the mechanism or the energy storage to return to Earth. If you (and three close companions) are willing to go be the first people to die on Mars, you'll also need to give up more than a pinch of privacy, because the Mars One plan to obtain the necessary funding is straightforward: create a media spectacle, and monetize it through advertising. (Note: If Elon Musk's optimistic sounding predictions are right, maybe one-way Marstronauts can get a return ticket, after all.) Many questions about the proposed journey are answered in the project's FAQ; check there before formulating questions. Ask Lansdorp about the practicalities and impracticalities of reaching Mars with as many questions as you'd like, but (lest ye be modded down) please only one question per post.
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Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:18AM (#40453527) Journal
    This question may boil down to cultural differences but I'm an American, fairly non-nomadic and I have a lot of cargo -- both mentally and physically. There are places of my youth that I may never return to and I currently sit a thousand miles away from. But I'm okay with this because if I flipped out one day I could just board a plane or road trip it back. I'm aware that settlers who came to the Americas faced similar issues but they were moving to a new land that was already inhabited by humans and had new places to offer them. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell. I would surmise that someone would need to be legally insane to willingly go to a place without society, without parks, without schools, without culture, without even atmosphere, without children, without the elderly and without the prospect of seeing those things first hand again. Furthermore, should a sane person make such a decision I can see no perceivable way they would remain sane. Even if the person is nomadic or adventurous in nature, you will bring them to a new world and require four of them to remain cooped up in a thousand cubic meters.

    Call it cabin fever, call it space madness, call it batshit insanity, call it whatever you want but aside from bombarding them with digital crap from Earth, how are you going to combat it? I know your ratings go up but what happens when all your reality television is 90% insane ramblings of home?

    If the Mars mission is brought to you as reality TV, you will see how the astronauts land on Mars, start construction on their habitat, cooperate, discuss, laugh and live.

    Exactly what kind of laughter did you have in mind?

  • Power Draw? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:22AM (#40453603) Journal
    Exactly how do you plan on broadcasting reality TV of your mission? Mars seems like a difficult place to get energy. When people's lives are at risk in a mercilessly harsh environment, isn't it a bit selfish for us to be asking them to use their solar panels to send us video of their daily lives? I understand the need for communications but how do you plan on sending enough video and audio back from the teams to make a reality show?

    Is the following statement morally reprehensible to you? "I know you've had a long day but we need someone to do a walk out to dust off the south solar panels because we're not getting enough power to transmit cameras five and six to monitor you while you sleep."
  • by Cap'nSmithers (2474202) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:25AM (#40453647)
    Are you exploring any possibilities for creating fuel for a return trip while on Mars? There is at least one [usra.edu] study for the possibility, most likely more. If you're planning on the trip being a one-way mission, why not at least experiment with the idea for future Mars missions? And if it works, you get a ride home, and you've made some pretty hefty contributions to space travel.
  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:29AM (#40453703)

    if i move to mars for the rest of my life what are the entertainment options? what am i supposed to do in my off time?

  • Pioneers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:30AM (#40453719)
    It seems to me that a mission of this type which is meant to be permanent must by necessity focus on the production of those things which are necessary for survival on Mars. This means that your colonists, and they should be called colonists, will need to focus on the production of air, water, food, living space, and manufactured goods, in that order. Media spectacle or no, that is the order that things must take, prior to wasting time with research (wasting time in the hunter-gatherer sense).

    I think that the only way you are going to be able to get your colonists to do what you want them to do will be to have them earn money with their scientific research/media nonsense such that it funds resupply missions.

    That said, what is your business plan with regards to production of goods on Mars, and resupply missions?
  • I've always been of the opinion that once a private Mars mission gets close to becoming reality, scientists and the government will go in league to shut it down because of environmental contamination. The question of whether there is life on Mars is still open, and once you have a group setting up a settlement, the planet is potentially contaminated forever with Earth bacteria, which might even kill off native bacteria, if any.

    My question is, are you concerned with the contamination question and do you think you might be prevented from going if scientists get the right politicians to listen? You sort-of have a FAQ question about this ("Will the mission be harmful to Mars' environment?"), but you don't really answer it.

  • Suicide options? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:35AM (#40453803)

    Will the astronauts be supplied with the means to end their lives if they find themselves facing hopeless circumstances (e.g., slow life-support failure, debilitating depression)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:39AM (#40453857)

    That's covered in Zubrin's book, "A Case for Mars" that describes his Mars Direct approach. I met him in Cookeville, TN about a decade ago - great speaker. Too bad nobody has yet given him the $20B necessary for a series of small bases.

  • Funding sources (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:11PM (#40454339)

    Are you considering a mix of different funding sources, like Kickstarter, private donations / investors, government / corporate sponsorship? TV show alone may not be sufficient. Maybe accept free hardware / volunteer labor / services like rocket launches as donations, too?

    On a related note, are you going to start the selection and training as soon as you have enough money for that first step? Or do you think it only makes sense if you have secured the funding for the actual trip? I personally think once this starts rolling, it will be easier to attract more funding.

  • by Mabhatter (126906) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:16PM (#40454413)

    If they were really serious, the first crew would be for setup. You would be able to give them 100% + extra resources for establishing the base up front.

    I think the problem is that much like founding America, trailblazers are supposed to be followed by supplies and crew at regular intervals. There were lots of problems where one crew would come ahead, then the crew to follow would never have LEFT to bring supplies.

    Mixing manned missions and supply missions might help too. You can pack a lot of supplies of you don't have to keep people alive in space 2 years. if they were really clever, they would launch supply and robot scouting missions first so the settlers had plenty of equipment on the ground when they got there.

    Personally, they should also build a space station over Mars before landing people. Again. They might not have fuel to return, but the "could" be rescued. And they can verify equipment is working befor landing it. A chain of Solar-synchronous stations in the orbit between Eatrh and Mars might not be bad either... Basically glorified lifeboats at the mission halfway points.

  • Willing but able? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HarryatRock (1494393) <harry.rutherford@btinternet.com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:21PM (#40454501) Journal

    In spite of all of the posts implying that any volunteers must be "insane", I would be quite willing to go, for the reasons below. The important thing is that they are reasons, i.e. I am sane and have thought about them logically.
    I am unlikely to live more than 5 to 10 years more even if I stay on earth, in fact reduced gravity might give me longer.
    I have a good knowledge of science and engineering and a practical turn of mind that could let me make a real contribution to the project. I, like most humans, would like to have a chance to "make a mark" and leave a lasting memory, so what better than "third man on Mars"?
    I have had a good life, and worked on some interesting projects, but other than /. all I can do now is "play". I help a few local organisations with IT related tech, but I would love to do "meaningful" work again. Don't tell me about Open Source projects, unless of course you are a planning an SST :), I am just not interested enough in the content of projects I've seen. A Mars colony, now that has to be a good gig.
    Now for the bad news. I probably would not be acceptable as a candidate because of my health problems. I have limited mobility and have already received a "life time doze" in radiation therapy, I do not rely on drugs, but I have a restricted diet which might cause problems in supply and/or production.
    I am probably too old, and although I see this as "having good experience with limited technology", some might see me as "past it".
    And finally the game stopper. I don't think I would make interesting TV. I am not "handsome" (downright ugly is closer), I am straight, but the fires burn very low (it's true, I'm old :( ), so no romantic lead for me. I get along with most people (guess we wouldn't be likely to have a young earther along), so probably no exciting arguments, I am British and white , so no points for ethnic origin. And I have no dependents, so no back story, no family problems to pull the heart strings.
    All in all then I guess I'm not going to get the trip, and the real sad thing is that I have a feeling that many if not most of those who would go and would have sane reasons for doing so, fall into the same category. Catch 23?

  • by Mr. Theorem (33952) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:36PM (#40454701)

    Your FAQ, in the "sustainability" question, states

    The first four will also be carrying a device similar to a portable greenhouse, that will allow them to grow their own food.

    If we take 2000 calories per day as a baseline human need, that's 730,000 calories per [Earth] year, or about 3 million calories per Earth year per four-person crew, and the total need will grow by 3 million calories per Earth year every two years as more missions arrive. The diet would need to be varied, both to guard against catastrophic crop failure and to provide an appropriate spectrum of nutrients, and a reasonable estimate (e.g. based on a combination of corn, beans, and squash) suggests that 1 acre on Earth can provide such 3 million calories. But Mars gets, on average, only about 44% of the insolation as Earth does, so the first-order estimate suggests you'd need about 2.3 acres per mission-load of astronauts to grow a subsistence diet. This presumes that radiation won't negatively impact the crops, that the yield throughout the Mars growing season scales comparable to the Earth's, that your soil is comparable to Earth's, and many more things. You'll also need enough additional carbon and water to make the non-edible parts of the plants and soil, and you'll need to make sure there exists a suitable microbial community to decompose crop waste and turn it back into a useable food-growing medium (i.e. compost).

    I don't see in your concept drawing anything that approaches the size of land that would be needed to come anywhere close to such sustainable food production. Do you even have a back-of-the-envelope plan for sustainable food production, or is the bulk of the astronauts' calories going to need to come in perpetuity from the Earth?

  • I'd go. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fzz (153115) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:55PM (#40455103)
    I'm in my mid 40s, already got kids, am reasonably fit, have a scientific background, and I've probably got the right sort of technical skills for such a trip. I'm half-way through a pretty successful academic career at this point in my life. In 15 years time (when such a trip might be feasible), I'll be 60. My kids will have left home, and I'll be looking forward to retirement.

    Trouble is I'm not the sort of person to settle down and play golf. If, instead of retiring, I could do something really amazing with the last few years of my (productive) life, I'd jump at the opportunity. Assuming I'm still fit enough, I'd jump at the chance to go to Mars on a one-way trip. Likely it would shorten my life significantly. But I'll have already lived most of it anyway - what a way to go out!

    The tough part wouldn't be missing Earth, or spending 6 months in a large can, but missing my family. Video conferencing isn't the same, especially with the time lag. But even so, I reckon I'd still go, if they gave their blessing. I think they'd probably understand, even if they weren't happy about it. Some things are just worth devoting the rest of your life to, even if it turns out to be short.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader

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