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article image'Mars for the everyday man' — the second round for Mars One

By Karen Graham     Jan 21, 2014 in Science
Out of over 200,000 applications sent in to the Mars One project, 1,058 lucky would-be space travelers made it to the second-round on their quest to become the first in a group of four colonists to go Mars in 2024.
Carl Sagan recorded a message to the colonists on Mars a few months before he passed away in 1996. In it he said to the future colonists of Mars, "I don't know why you are on Mars, but whatever the reason for going to Mars, I'm glad you are there, and I wish I was with you."
Sagan's words are probably a welcome message to the 1,058 applicants that made the first cut in the Mars One project. They will go through one more selection process in 2015, when the final 40 to 50 space-travelers-to-be will be selected to begin a rigorous ten-year training regimen in preparation for the launch in 2024, of a one-way trip into history. A lucky group of four people will be selected to be the first colonists to make the journey to Mars.
Humans have always been fascinated with the red planet, and our movies are proof of that interest. From our earliest cinema creation, A Trip to Mars, filmed in 1910, to the U.K. film released December 6, 2013, called The Last Days on Mars, our interest has only grown.
Screenshot from the 1964 movie  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.   Featured are the Martian childr...
Screenshot from the 1964 movie "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Featured are the Martian children characters Bomar (Chris Month, left) and Girmar (Pia Zadora).
Film "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"
Our technological advances have come a long way
We now have the technology to do so much more than look to the sky with telescopes. With that technology has come man's first visitations to Mars, through the use of machines. We started with fly-by missions in the 1960s, soon followed with orbiters. But by the 1970s, we were actually able to land vehicles, and they were capable of sending back pictures of the planet.
The machinery and the pictures were primitive, compared with what we can do today. By the 1990s, we were experiencing a triumph in technological advances with the development of robotic rovers. Ten years ago, NASA launched two rovers that landed on opposite sides of the red planet, Spirit and Opportunity.
A  Martian mechanic  checks beneath the completely deployed Rover 1 (Opportunity) lander. Atop the l...
A "Martian mechanic" checks beneath the completely deployed Rover 1 (Opportunity) lander. Atop the lander is Rover 1 with its wheels and solar arrays in the stowed position.
John Grant is a planetary geologist with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and also participated in NASA's rover mission program. He feels manned missions to Mars are necessary. He likens Mars to our planet's continents, pointing out that it was necessary that we explore in order to learn, and that experience is best acquired by people, and not machines alone.
With the exploration of Mars, Grant says even with the knowledge we have gained, we still have a lot to learn, and there is still a lot of the red planet to explore. He compared what little we have seen so far to visiting a few national parks on Earth. In the past 10 years, Opportunity has only traveled about 23 miles across the martian surface, and it's been a very slow process. Grant says, "Rovers don't do and think like we do," and this makes the whole process longer because, "we have to tell them what to do."
Mars One faces real obstacles, both human and technical
But projects have to be realistic in not only their expectations and goals, but in the hazards and problems, both human and technological that may arise. These issues and other concerns can't be sorted out over a few cocktails because once the colonists are off the launch pad, there is no turning back, and it's a very long trip. Keep in mind that the very shortest round-trip would take more than a year.
Scientists are already conducting experiments at sites built to simulate long-duration missions. One site is located in the state of Hawaii, one a desolate and barren piece of land on one of the state's volcanoes. There is no plant life of any kind, and no human activity. One of the principle investigators, and a member of the select 1,058 applicants to make the cut, is Professor Kim Binsted of the University of Hawaii.
The only structure on the site is a 1,000 sq. ft. geodesic dome, built for six scientists to live and work in for months at a time. The dome has a workspace, sleeping areas, a kitchen and laboratories. Crew members can only go outside the dome if they don mock spacesuits. Their most recent mission concentrated on food. Because Mars has enough gravity that food will remain in a bowl, this means cooking is a possibility.
Binsted said the mission included cooking, and everything from borscht to dumplings and even cakes were made using stable "shelf-food" that could be used in space travel and on Mars. The one drawback was the lack of any fresh produce, so no salads were made. Of course, water is a necessity, and plans are in the works to produce water using a method called "terraforming." This process relies on the assumption that the environment on Mars can be transformed using artificial means.
Tomatoes  Black magigno hybrid growth by hydroponic method on straw bales. It will be important that...
Tomatoes, Black magigno hybrid growth by hydroponic method on straw bales. It will be important that hydroponic farming be set up to enable colonists to grow fresh produce.
Giancarlo Dessì
There is enough funding available, according to Binsted, to proceed with missions that will concentrate on growing fresh food and studying the psychological stresses placed on crew members that would affect their cohesiveness and performance under harsh conditions. The study "basically, has to support a crew and pick a crew so that they don't end up killing each other," said Binsted.
Getting to Mars alive is only half the problem facing Mars One. Getting a crew back from Mars presents an entirely different set of problems, and this option is not really on the table. Just thinking about the time and effort that goes into putting a simple weather satellite in orbit around the earth, and the time, funding, technology and other issues are immense.
Now, think about a trip to Mars if one were planning for a return trip. Plans would have to include packing a launch pad as well as a rocket. Then there is the fuel for the rocket, a huge amount to carry to Mars. A few Mars enthusiasts have commented it's a simple matter of forgetting about going home.
Another serious problem that needs to be worked out sometime in the very near future is the lethal levels of radiation present on the red planet's surface, as well as the extremes in the weather. The Netherlands-based Mars One group plans to send robots to Mars first to build a habitat and stock-pile water for the colony. Money is a major problem for a project of this size, and several options are in the works to gain public support and funding.
With the technology and  funding needed to make the Mars One project  successful  there are still qu...
With the technology and funding needed to make the Mars One project successful, there are still questions on the plausibility of the plan.
Screengrab / Time
Mars One took a big step on December 10, 2013 of launching a crowdfunding campaign, hosted by Indiegogo, a nonprofit crowdfunding group. The primary purpose of the campaign is to bring Mars One and their goal of a settlement on Mars to the masses. To this end, anyone can contribute financially to the organization in exchange for "perks," or gifts created by the campaign's owner. The Mars One perks provide what Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One calls, “the first steps to affordable and accessible space exploration.”
According to a press release on January 14, 2014, the masses are invited to participate in Mars One's first unmanned mission to Mars in 2018. On Dec. 10, 2013, it was announced that Lockheed Martin and SSTL had been selected to perform the mission concept studies for the two spacecraft needed that will fly to Mars in 2018.
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