NASA Planning One-Way Manned Mission to Mars by Steven Hoffer
(Oct. 27) — We are going to Mars and not coming back.
At a recent event in San Francisco, NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden introduced the Hundred Year Starship initiative, a project to embark on a one-way mission from Earth to Mars by 2030 and permanently settle the red planet.
“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” Worden said. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.”
One of NASA’s main research centers has already received approximately $1.5 million to being working on the project — a fine sum of money but space peanuts compared with what is required. Luckily, private investors like Google co-founder Larry Page are interested in contributing. Worden, who says that the project will cost an estimated $10 billion, described his conversation with a seldom stingy Page.
“His response was, ‘Can you get it down to $1 [billion] or $2 billion?’ So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price,” said Worden.
So if you are a billionaire and interested in contributing to this initiative, you can probably get a hold of Worden’s phone number.
A one-way ticket to Mars is a heavily debated resolution to concerns involving returning astronauts to Earth, and even more often the cost of doing so. Writing for The New York Times, Lawrence Krauss asked the question, “Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again?” more than a year ago. Astronauts might have supplies periodically sent, but they would also be expected to become generally self-sufficient.
The Mars initiative is in many respects the direct opposite of a Russian initiative to simulate the experience of visiting the red planet without ever leaving our green one (though clearly, it is an advisable prerequisite for any sort of eventual extraterrestrial colonization mission). The six participating scientists, stationed in a Moscow warehouse, are in month six of the 18-month experiment that replicates every aspect of a mission to Mars, set aside the lack of gravity.