Say someone were to tell you: we are going to build a human settlement on Mars. After you have laughed a bit, only to be met with a serious face, you might ask:
To learn more about the technical challenges of a human mission to Mars, read The Technology and Technical Feasibility sections of our website.
A one way trip has obvious technical advantages, but what does this mean for the astronauts themselves? That depends on who you ask. You could say that most people would rather lose a leg than live the rest of their life on a cold, hostile planet, having said goodbye to friends and family forever, the best possible video call suffering from a seven minute delay—one way.
However, there are individuals for whom traveling to Mars has been a dream for their entire life. They relish the challenge. Not unlike the ancient Chinese, Micronesians, and untold Africans, the Vikings and famed explorers of Old World Europe, who left everything behind to spend the majority of their lives at sea, a one-way mission to Mars is about exploring a new world and the opportunity to conduct the most revolutionary research ever conceived, to build a new home for humans on another planet.
Mars One will offer everyone who dreams the way the ancient explorers dreamed the opportunity to apply for a position in a Mars One Mission. Are you one for whom this is a dream?
Before they leave the Earth’s atmosphere to travel to Mars, each astronaut will be put through the required eight years of training. They will be isolated from the world for a few months every two years in groups of four in simulation facilities, to learn how they respond to living in close quarters while isolated from all humans except for the three crew members. In addition to the expertise and work experience they must already possess, they have to learn quite a few new skills: physical and electrical repairs to the settlement structures, cultivating crops in confined spaces, and addressing both routine and serious medical issues such as dental upkeep, muscle tears and bone fractures.
The flight will take between seven to eight months (depending upon the relative positions of the Earth and Mars). The astronauts will spend those seven months together in a very small space—much smaller than the home base at the settlement on Mars—devoid of luxury or frills. This will not be easy. Showering with water will not be an option. Instead the astronauts make do with wet towelettes (wet wipes) as used by astronauts on the International Space Station.
Freeze dried and canned food is the only option. There will be constant noise from the ventilators, computer and life support systems, and a regimented routine of 3 hours daily exercise in order to maintain muscle mass. If the astronauts are hit by a solar storm, they must take refuge in the even smaller, sheltered area of the rocket which provides the best protection, for up to several days.
The journey will be arduous, pressing each of them to the very limits of their training and personal capacity. But the astronauts will endure because this will be the flight carrying them to their dream.
Once they arrive on Mars, the astronauts will begin making use of their relatively spacious living units; over 50 m2 per person, and a total of more than 200 m2 combined interior space.
Within the settlement are inflatable components which contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a 'plant production unit', where they will grow greenery. They will also be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food (that they themselves grew and harvested) in the kitchen, wear regular clothes, and, in essence, lead typical day-to-day lives.
If the astronauts leave the settlement, they have to wear a Mars Suit. However, all living spaces are connected by passageways, in order for the astronauts to move freely from one end of the settlement to the other. As the rovers have done much of the heavy construction prior to their arrival, it will not take the astronauts a long time to find routine in their new life, moving into carrying out valuable construction works and research.
Several new components will be delivered to Mars while the first group of four astronauts are settled. In preparation of the arrival of the second group of four astronauts, the components will include a second living unit and a second life support unit. With use of the rovers, the astronauts will connect these units to the main base. When this task has been performed, the first crew has prepared the settlement for the arrival of additional astronauts, and, in the meantime, the astronauts will enjoy more room for themselves and extra safety as the duplicate living environments provide back-up life support systems.
When the second crew of astronauts lands, the first crew will have already applied technology and physical labor to the construction of additional living and working spaces, using local materials. Mars One is working on concepts, such as the inclusion of tunnels and domes made from compressed Martian soil, which may be able to hold a breathable atmosphere for the astronauts to live in.
There will be a great deal of research conducted on Mars. The astronauts will research how their bodies respond and change when living in a 38% gravitational field, and how food crops and other plants grow in hydroponic plant production units. Research will include extra-settlement exploration to learn about the ancient and current geology on Mars. Of course, much research will be dedicated to the determination if life was once present or now exists on Mars.
The astronauts will not only submit routine reports, but will also share all that they enjoy and find challenging. It will give the people on Earth a unique and personal insight view of life on Mars. They could answer intriguing questions like: What is it like to walk on Mars? How do you feel about your fellow astronauts after a year? What is it like living in the reduced Mars’ gravity? What is your favorite food? Do you enjoy the sunsets on Mars?
A new group of four astronauts will land on Mars every two years, steadily increasing the settlement’s size. Eventually, a living unit will be built from local materials, large enough to grow trees. As more astronauts arrive, the creativity applied to settlement expansion will certainly give way to ideas and innovation that we cannot conceive now. But we can expect the human spirit to continue to persevere, to even thrive in this challenging environment.