In 2011, Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders laid the foundation to begin the Mars One mission plan. The first step included holding discussion meetings with potential aerospace component suppliers in USA, Canada, Italy, and United Kingdom. The mission architecture, budgets, and timelines were then solidified after receiving feedback from the supplier engineers and business developers. This resulted in a baseline design for an achievable mission of permanent human settlement on Mars with existing technology.
In April 2013, the Astronaut Selection Program was launched at press conferences in New York and Shanghai. The selection program started with an online application and proceeded with video applications and personal interviews. The subsequent selection rounds will consist of group challenges and simulations.
At the end of selection program, six teams of four individuals will be selected for training. New astronaut selection programs will begin every year to replenish the training pool regularly. In addition, during this time an analogue of the Mars habitat is to be constructed on Earth for technology testing and training purposes.
Groups selected from the first batch of applicants will train together until the launch in 2026. The group's ability to deal with prolonged periods of time in a remote location is the most important part of their training. Thus, they will learn to repair components of the habitat and rover, train in medical procedures, and learn to grow their own food in the habitat.
Every group spends several months of each training year in the analogue outpost to prepare for their mission to Mars. The first outpost simulation location, a Mars-like terrain that is relatively easy to reach, will be chosen. A second training outpost will be located at a more remote environment like the Arctic desert.
A demonstration mission will be launched to Mars in 2020. This mission will provide proof of concepts for some of the technologies that are important for a human mission to Mars.
A communication satellite will also be launched, which will be placed into a Mars stationary orbit. This communication satellite enables 24/7 communications between the two planets and can also relay images, videos, and other data from the Mars surface.
Read more about the 2020 mission in Mars One's crowdfunding campaign.
One intelligent rover and one trailer will be launched. The rover can use the trailer to transport the landers to the outpost location. On Mars, the rover drives around the chosen region to find the best location for the settlement. An ideal location for the settlement needs to be far enough North for the soil to contain enough water, equatorial enough for maximum solar power, and flat enough to facilitate the construction of the settlement.
When the settlement location is determined, the rover will prepare the surface for the arrival of the cargo missions. It will also clear large areas where the solar panels will lie.
A second communications satellite will be launched into orbit around the Sun. It takes the same orbit as the Earth but trails 60 degrees behind it in the L5 Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system. Together with the ComSat around Mars, it enables 24/7 communication with Mars, even when the Sun is in between the two planets.
A second rover, two living units, two life support units, and a supply unit are sent to Mars in 2024. In 2025, all units land on Mars using a rover signal as a beacon.
The six cargo units will land up to 10 km away from the outpost on Mars. The rover will pick up the first life support unit using the trailer, place the life support unit in the right place, and deploy the thin film solar panel of the life support unit. The rover will then be able to connect to the life support unit to recharge its batteries much faster than using only its own panels, which will allow it work much more efficiently.
The rover will pick up all the other cargo units and deploy the thin film solar panel of the second life support unit and the inflatable sections of the living units.
The life support unit will be connected to the living units by a hose that can transport water, air, and electricity. Once these are connected, the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) will be activated. The rover will feed Martian soil into the ECLSS and the water will be extracted from the Martian soil by evaporating the subsurface ice particles in an oven. The evaporated water is condensed back to its liquid state and stored, and part of the water is used for producing Oxygen. The Nitrogen and Argon filtered from the Martian atmosphere will make up the other components of the breathable air inside the habitat.
Before the first crew starts their journey, the ECLSS will have produced a breathable atmosphere of 0.7 bar pressure, 3000 liters of water, 240 kg of Oxygen which will be stored for later use.
The rover will also deposit Martian soil on top of the inflatable sections of the habitat for radiation shielding.
In 2026, the components of the Mars Transit Vehicle will be launched to Earth orbit after receiving the green light on the status of the systems on Mars. Firstly, a transit habitat and a Mars lander with an assembly crew on-board will be launched into an orbit around the Earth. The assembly crew docks the Mars lander to the transit habitat. A month later two propellant stages will be launched and are also connected.
Secondly, the first fully trained Mars crew will be launched into the same Earth orbit. In orbit the Mars One crew switches places with the assembly crew, which will descend back to Earth. After a final check of systems on Mars and of the transit vehicle, engines of the propellant stages will be fired and the Transit Vehicle will be launched on a Mars transit trajectory. This is the point of no return for the Mars crew.
The cargo for the second crew is launched to Mars in the same month of the launch of the first Mars settlers.
Approximately 24 hours before landing, the crew will move from the transit habitat into the landing module, bringing some of the supplies from the transit habitat. The landing module will then detach from the transit habitat, which is too large to land on Mars. The transit habitat is discarded and stays in orbit around the sun.
The lander is exactly the same as those used for previous unmanned missions. This will ensure that the human crew lands in a system that has been tested eight times already. Upon landing, the crew takes up to 48 hours to recover from experiencing gravity again after spending a long time in Space. They leave the lander in their Mars suits and will be picked up by the rover.
After being picked up by the rover, the astronauts will enter the settlement through the airlock in one of the living units and spend the next few days recovering and settling in the new environment.
The settlers then deploy the rest of the solar panels after their acclimatization period. They will also install the hallways between the landers and set up food production units.
The cargo for the second crew lands within a few weeks after the first crew. The cargo is picked up and installed, adding to the redundancy in the settlement.
Redundancy is extremely important because, unlike the crew aboard the International Space Station, the Mars One crew can't abandon their mission in case of an emergency. When the first crew lands they will find the habitat with a good level of redundancy. The established habitat will, by this time, include two living units, each large enough to house the crew of four, and two life support units which are capable of providing enough water, power, and breathable air for the entire crew. When the hardware for the second crew is incorporated to the settlement, it will feature four living units and four life support units, which are enough to sustain a crew of 16 astronauts.
The second crew departs from Earth in 2028. The cargo for the third crew is launched with the second crew.
The second crew will land on Mars in 2029 and will be welcomed by the first crew and prepared living quarters. The hardware for the third crew will land a few weeks later and will be added to the settlement. This process continues as additional crews land every two years.