Humanity has explored Mars since 1960, and we’ve never been closer. The next logical step for Mars exploration is permanent settlement, where crews that go to Mars stay and build a new society. Humans settling on Mars will inspire us all to make Earth a better place. Technology, scientific understanding, cooperation – is there anything we cannot achieve?
Mars One was founded in 2011 with the goal of sending humans to Mars to stay. Instead of trying to return them, more crews would be sent every two years, establishing a permanent, ever-growing settlement on the Red Planet.
Permanent settlement missions place even higher demands on the crew than a return mission. A first permanent settlement crew would be on Mars for two years before the second crew joins them. They would be able to communicate with friends and family on Earth, but only with time delays. Crew selection, training and testing on Earth would be necessary to make sure they can deal with this. Besides that, they would need to learn all the skills to survive on Mars without support from Earth, other than information. They would need to be able to fix every technical and medical problem, grow food and expand the settlement with hardware for upcoming crews. Crew selection is the biggest challenge of a permanent settlement mission to Mars.
Mars One had a business plan for such a mission to Mars, which can be summarized as monetizing the media value of the adventure of humans going to Mars. The Olympic Games are worth more than $4 billion dollars in broadcasting rights and sponsorships. The 1969 Moon landing is still the TV program with the highest viewership density ever. Imagine the value of a mission to Mars in the current media era. Mars One raised funds by having investors invest in a Mars One media company that held the rights to the mission.
In 2011, Mars One met with aerospace companies around the world to discuss the plan, including SpaceX, Hamilton Sundstrand, ILC Dover, MDA corporation, Paragon Space Development Corporation and Thales Alenia Space. With their feedback, Mars One developed a plan that was feasible, affordable and that had an acceptable risk. In 2012, the plan was announced, later followed by a job vacancy for Mars settlers. More than 200,000 people registered their interest on the Mars One website. More than 10,000 potentials finished the job application process, and Mars One narrowed down the applicants, first to 1058 round 2 candidates and then to 100 round three candidates.
In 2013 and 2014, Mars One had feasibility studies performed by Lockheed Martin, for a first robotic mission and with Paragon Space Development Corporation, for Mars suits and life support systems.
In 2016 Mars One ran out of funds and was unable to continue the selection program and the technical studies. In the years after that, several attempts were made to raise additional funds, but they were unsuccessful.
Despite that, Mars One has had an impact on Mars exploration by promoting the idea of permanent settlement. We, Mars One’s co-founders, are still convinced that the first crews that go to Mars should (or will have to) go there to stay. The risk of doing a return mission before you have adequate launch infrastructure on Mars is simply too great. The first time you hear the idea of permanent settlement, you might think it is out there. But the second or the third time, you realize that some humans are and have always been explorers. Throughout history, there have been humans with explorer genes that picked up their stuff and tried to settle in a place where no human had gone before. Exploration has never been free of risk, and all space exploration presents very real risks and challenges. Establishing a permanent settlement on Mars is very complex, but it is far less complex, less risky, and requires much less infrastructure sent to Mars than return missions. Only a mission design that involves permanent settlement results in a technically feasible mission with an acceptable risk to the crews.
The idea of permanent settlement has been popularized through Mars One’s own communication and media coverage, but also by Mars One being picked up in popular culture like the Simpsons and Big Bang Theory. Mars One has made a lot of people (more) passionate about Mars exploration. And we believe these seeds we planted will make it a little bit less hard for the next group that plans a permanent settlement mission to Mars.
If you are interested to know more about Mars One’s journey, permanent settlement, crew selection for permanent settlement or anything else where you think we could help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.