MarsOne

Helloooo everyone!
First time user, first post here. I have gotten answers for many googled questions from straightdope in the past. But i have never actually taken the time to look at what straightdope was, till now.
I love the idea, and got a million questions that i cant wait to ask, and id love to try and answer a million more!
Heres one for starters;
Is the marsone project actually, physically, feasibly possible? Or is it a joke?
Also, if it is a joke, are the participants mentally stable?
Cheers in advance :alien:

Sometimes a group of highly motivated people can surprise you.

That said, NASA is a bit skeptical on Mars One’s ability to pull this off. NASA has a bit more experience in this sort of thing, and their plan for Mars is to keep sending rovers and maybe a manned mission in the 2030s.

Mars One for those of you who need background info.

My take is that if it’s real, it’s a terrible idea but is more likely a scam to suck money out of earnest space-intrigued idiots.

I take a middle view: Most of the people behind Mars One really do sincerely intend to go through with it, and it’s theoretically possible that they could, but that in practice they almost certainly won’t, due to issues of funding and other logistic matters. Even if they don’t, though, they can still provide inspiration and ideas to whoever eventually does make it work (which will probably be NASA or another national-government organization).

It’s financial nonsense. Estimates of the Apollo program run something like $25 billion, or $150 billion in current dollars. I take those figures with a large grain of salt, but they are probably close enough for a first estimate.

The MarsOne’s budget for the first Mars mission is $6 billion, with each one after that costing $4 billion. This is ludicrous. Multiply those numbers by ten and you begin to get at reality. The numbers are ridiculously small because nobody would spend one second on their site if they talked about their needing to raise $100 billion to start and that much more every couple of years.

And guess what? They’re already behind schedule and have pushed their earliest timetable out by years.

People get turned on by space. A lot of people really, really, really wanted to believe in it and think that we somehow blew an opportunity with Apollo. MarsOne is a slightly better way to waste money than burning it because the money stays on Earth and may fund some research that will turn out to be useful in other ways. Only a fanatic True Believer can think it will amount to anything, though.

This statement alone should inform the reader about the practicality of their plans. Mars is not some previously unexplored island or mountain range; it is a planet with just enough atmosphere to make it problematic to land but not enough to breathe, maintain pressure, or protect from radiation. It is far enough and the ephemerides for low energy transits are infrequent enough that there is no realistic chance of rescue or unplanned resupply. The lack of nitrates in Martian soil means that settlers would have to bring large quantities of fertilizer. The problems with years-long stays in completely closed habitats (e.g. Biosphere 2) have not been resolved, which means that a habitat would have to be supplied with large quantities of consumables.

In short, even setting aside all of the difficulties in protecting and providing for the crew during the 9 month trip to Mars (which alone is well beyond existing experience and technology, not to mention that no existing crew-rated booster–not even the presumed capabiltiy of the Falcon Heavy–exists that would be able to carry all of the supplies, habitat modules, and Earth departure propulsion section withouth requiring dozens of launches and on-orbit assembly comparable to the decade long assembly of the International Space Station) it just isn’t feasible to maintain a “colony” on Mars indefinitely without regular and costly resupply. Who will pay for this and with what? There is nothing of conceivable value on Mars which could be sold for anywhere near enough to justify the cost of returning it to Earth, and for the hundreds of billions it would cost to perform even a modest crewed mission to Mars the ESA and NASA could litter the planet from pole to pole with hundreds of rovers.

Is it a scam or a joke? That seems unlikely; there are much easier scams to perpetrate, and I know for a fact that the Mars One people have (as they’ve claimed) talk to a number of aerospace companies who would be in the running to provide various launch and operations services for a Mars effort. All of those people are shaking their heads at the claims that the Mars One people can do it at a cost of around 1-3% of even the most optimistic estimates, as if every study that has been done on a crewed Mars mission in the last four decades has been performed by complete idiots in a darkened room, but they have at least made some effort to educate themselves about capability. Like writing software, planning grandious projects always seems very easy in the beginning; you frame out a concept, break it into phases, and start drawing cartoons with rocketships bursting forth from the Earth and colonists growing corn under the terraformed Martain sky. But when you actually start to look at requirements and go through the feasibility studies and system requirements analysis you discover just how complex all of this really is, and I can pretty much guarantee that the Mars One people have done none of this. Their plan to start shipping supplies and uninhabited modules in 2018 alone is ridiculous; even at a dead run it will take 2-3 years to design, build, and test equipment designed for long term service in the harsh Martian environment, and at least a couple of years to schedule a launch and get all of the range approvals, do the mission analysis and integration, et cetera.

Stranger

About US$109B in current dollars actually, which amatorized over each successful lunar landing works out to a cost of US$18B per 10-12 day mission with a crew of three men in a freefall environment about the size of a Volkswagon Beetle.

To be fair, we did blow the opportunity with Apollo. The opportunity wasn’t going to the Moon–we did that, six times–but to follow on with a sustainable program to develop a complete infrastructure in space that would support long term habitation and exploration. Once Armstong put a bootprint on the Moon (actually before) Congress pulled the plug, and while the program continued to coast on momentum it was dead as Dillinger despite the storehouses of contractor proposals to reuse and improve the Apollo/Saturn system and the Lunar Module for a variety of purposes in Earth orbit and beyond. The Space Transportation System (“Shuttle”) was supposed to make up for that, but as a part of an overall architecture of space stations, fuel depots, orbital tugs, and satellites which never came to pass. By the time we actually had a space station to go to, the badly designed and overaged Shuttle fleet was overdue for retirement with no vehicle in the wings to replace it.

The Mars One effort isn’t even marginally well funded enough to provide any useful research or technology development, hence their claim that no new technology is needed, a claim so absurd that it is stunning in its audacity. I firmly predict that it won’t put so much as a hampster on another planet, and is unlikely to even result in actual hardware flown in space.

Stranger

Agreed. This is drastically short of what would be required for a colony on the Moon.

Consider that the 1st unmanned mission is in 2018 and the first manned one will be in 2024. It takes about 180 days to get to Mars. So lets leave aside waiting for proper alignments and see what would happen with a set or serial launches

2018 - Launch
2018.5 - Land
2019 - review completed mission (small scale in-situ fuel/oxygen/water)
2019.5 - Launch
2020 - Land
2020.5 - review completed mission (small scale in-situ crop)
2021 - Launch
2021.5 - Land
2022 - review completed mission (integrated small scale fuel/water/oxygen/crop system)
2022.5 - Launch
2023 - Land
2023.5 - review performance of permanent fuel/water/oxygen/crop system
2024 - Launch people to Mars

So you see how wildly optimistic that is? I’m hand waving away all sorts of complexities like contingency plans for ruptured catalyst beds in the in-situ fuel generator. I’m assuming every damn thing works every damn time - even worse I’m only testing it once and then declaring success. I wouldn’t sign up.

I was part of that generation who grew up with Space as the obvious next step. After Sputnik I wanted to be an astronomer and could recite facts and figures about the planets to awestruck neighbors. Worse, I found myself in the small delirious world of science fiction, where the writers were actually more hysterical on the subject than the fans.

So of course we would go into space. Why? Well because… Space!!!

In the 60 years since Heinlein, Ley, von Braun, and a few others began a deliberate public propaganda campaign for space (which their backers refuse to admit became successful solely because of the cold war), nobody ever came up with a better answer. The MarsOne site doesn’t bother to give a better answer; it simply refers to the challenge and the people who want to dare the odds in language that has remained unchanged since the early 1950s. Unquestionably, people like that exist. You don’t hear much about them in history until Victorian times, though. Earlier explorers were captives of funders who wanted enormous returns on investment. Arctic or equatorial explorers who braved incomprehensible privations for nothing but the challenge or the honor are the equivalent of art, mere luxury goods that a wealthy society can afford to waste money upon for status displays.

Right now, a Mars settlement is an art project, a toy for wealthy dilettantes and enthusiasts, a status display for hipsters about as serious as a furry convention. As a society we have sufficient wealth to allow such extravagances. That is all that can be said for it. Until and unless someone can explain in terms of dollars and cents what opportunity we lost by not going to space, Space!!! will rightly stay a toy, no matter how much that outrages the believers.

In space, no one can hear you yiff.

It does seem to be a certain type of person who gets really into that sort of thing and appears to believe it makes sense. I suppose they are fantasizing about space and other planets like religious believers do in the afterlife or Marxists about communism. And if you’re going to fantasize, why not go big?
So, yeah, the main question is whether the MarsOne people are fools or knaves.
It is fun to think about, though, isn’t it? It makes for great movies and video games.

Stranger, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve thought and read about what it would take to sustain life on Mars. I have a similar question I’d quite like your input on if you’d indulge me: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=719783

Appreciate the responses. Stunned by how quick i got all these answers!

It fact, it’s probably in the ballpark of what would be required to create such a colony in Antarctica, given that all transport be done by rocket.