Mars One has developed a mission to establish a human settlement on Mars built entirely upon existing technology. While the integration of systems proven in prior missions does greatly improve the chance of success, it by no means eliminates the risk or challenge of such an incredible endeavor. Sending humans to Mars remains a phenomenal undertaking by all standards and, as such, presents very real risks and challenges.
United States President John F. Kennedy said in his famous Rice Moon speech "We choose to go to the Moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard”.
Mars One takes on the challenge of establishing a settlement on Mars with the same frame of mind, knowing all great endeavors, especially space exploration, incorporate risk of lost time, resources, ... and sometimes lives. Venturing to Mars is no exception.
The challenge is to identify the risks in every step of the ten year mission, from astronaut selection through training, from launch to living on Mars. Mars One has incorporated into its mission plan a detailed risk analysis protocol, built by highly experienced individuals, some of them with experience at NASA and the ESA. Ever evolving, ever improving, Mars One is constantly working to reduce the risk of delay and failure at every level.
For example, the Mars lander will be tested several times prior to the landing of the first crew, using identical vehicles. As is standard in the aerospace industry, every component will be selected for its simplicity, durability, and capacity to be repaired using the facilities that are available to the astronauts on Mars.
An important aspect of risk management is for quality information to be shared between suppliers and made readily available to all parties. In the case of the Mars One mission, this includes sponsors, investors, aerospace suppliers, and of course, the astronauts themselves. Because the mission is ultimately funded and supported by the global audience, Mars One also desires for the general public to have a sense of what the risks are and how Mars One is working to mitigate them.
Mars One identifies two major risk categories: the loss of human life and cost overruns.
Human space exploration is dangerous at all levels. After more than fifty years of humans traveling from Earth to space, the risk of space flight is similar to that of climbing Mount Everest.
Mars is an unforgiving environment where a small mistake or accident can result in large failure, injury, and death. Every component must work perfectly. Every system (and its backup) must function without fail or human life is at risk.
With advances in technology, shared experience between space agencies, what was once a one-shot endeavor becomes routine and space travel does become more viable.
Cost overruns are also not uncommon in large projects in any arena. The risk for cost overrun in the Mars One mission is reduced by using existing technologies, and by the fact that about 66% of the cost is associated with launch and landing--both of which are well understood and proven variables.
The proposed Mars One budget includes a large safety margin to take into account significant mission failures as well as smaller but costly failures of components on Mars.
Mars One has developed a detailed risk analysis profile which guides both its internal technical development as well as the relationships it builds with its aerospace suppliers. This risk analysis profile will continue to evolve and improve over the years prior to the first humans walking on the planet Mars.