Human Settlement on Mars
Mars One is a not for profit Dutch foundation with the goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. To prepare for this settlement the first unmanned mission is scheduled to depart in 2020. A habitable settlement will await the first crew before they depart Earth. The hardware needed will be sent to Mars in the years ahead of the humans. This unmanned mission is currently scheduled for 2024. Crews will depart for their one-way journey to Mars starting in 2026; subsequent crews will depart every 26 months after the initial crew has left for Mars. Mars One is a global initiative aiming to make this everyone’s mission to Mars. Mars One’s efforts to enable the next giant leap for mankind.
2011 Mars One founded
Foundations of mission plan implemented
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.
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For anyone not interested to go to Mars, moving permanently to Mars would be the worst kind of punishment. Most people would give an arm and a leg to be allowed to stay on Earth so it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would want to go.
Yet many people apply for Mars One’s mission and these are the people who dream about someday living on Mars. They would give up anything for the opportunity and it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would not want to go. However, not everyone who wants to fly to Mars is the right type of person to settle on Mars, therefore careful consideration must be taken when considering Mars One’s astronauts.
2013: Astronaut selection is launched worldwide
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.
Selecting the Crew
There are multiple the requirements to become a Mars One astronaut. Applicants’ characteristics must fit with those of an astronaut. Meaning the candidate needs to be:
- Trustworthy and Trusting
- Above the age of 18
- A2 English level
- Other physical requirements
The selection process consists of four rounds, resulting in international crews of up to six groups of four.
All candidates must submit an online application. The online application consists of general information about the applicant, a motivational letter, a resume and a one minute video in which the applicant answers some given questions and explains why he or she should be among the first humans to set foot on Mars. At this stage the potential candidates can submit their application in one of the 11 most used languages on Internet: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Indonesian, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Korean. If an applicant decides to make his or her profile public, the application videos is available to be watched on community.mars-one.com. At the end of the first selection round, a team of Mars One experts will decide which applicants will pass to the next selection round.
Mars One then narrows the remaining applicants down to Round Two candidates. These individuals need to provide a medical statement from their own physician stating that they have met all the defined requirements. Mars One’s criteria for medical fitness are similar to those of NASA.
The remaining individuals will subsequently receive materials to study for general knowledge questions. Mars One Chief Medical Officer Norbert Kraft interviews the members of this group individually about the knowledge questions and about their motivation to become part of this life-changing mission. The interviews are brief because it does not require a lot of time to determine which candidate is not suitable to fly to Mars. Therefore, the following selection rounds will be focused on determining who has what it takes to settle on Mars. The remaining candidates will have shown that they are healthy, smart, and dedicated.
The third round is an international selection round. Candidates who make it into this third selection round will participate in group challenges that demonstrate their suitability to become one of the first humans on Mars, and will take part in longer and more thorough interviews. The Mars One Selection Committee will determine who will pass to the final selection round.
The Mars One selection committee will create international groups of four candidates. The groups will be expected to demonstrate their ability to live in harsh living conditions, and work together under difficult circumstances. The groups will receive their first short term training in a copy of the Mars outpost.
From the first selection series, up to six groups of four will become full time employees of the Mars One astronaut corps, after which they will train for the mission. Whole teams and individuals might be selected out during training if they prove unsuitable for the mission.
Future Crew Expansion
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 cannot be conceived now. But it can be expected that the human spirit will continue to persevere, and even thrive in this challenging environment.
2016: Selected candidates enter full-time training
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
Mars One’s teams of prospective Mars inhabitants will be prepared for the mission by participating full time in an extensive training program. This will be their full time, paid job. The training is split up into three programs: technical training, personal training, and group training.
The astronauts will be required to learn many new skills and gain proficiency in a wide variety of disciplines. At least two astronauts must be proficient in the use and repair of all equipment in order to be able to identify and solve technical problems.
At least two astronauts will receive extensive medical training in order to be able to treat minor and critical health problems, including first aid and use of the medical equipment that will accompany them to Mars. At least one person will train in studies on Mars geology while another will gain expertise in ‘exobiology’, the biology of alien life. Other specialties like physiotherapy, psychology, and electronics will be shared among the four astronauts in each of the initial groups.
Mars One will ensure that in each group, at least two crew members will be trained in each essential skill-set in case a member becomes ill. Their training and preparations will take place between their admittance to the program, and the start of their journey to Mars.
As the population on Mars increases, each new arrival will be able to bring with him or her an area of expertise. In time, this will reduce astronaut training time and requirements.
The ability of astronauts to cope with the difficult living environment on Mars will be an important selection criteria. For example, an astronauts’ mobility will be restricted for a long period of time, and they will no longer be able to speak to friends and family on Earth face-to-face (read here how they can communicate with people on Earth). They will be able to receive psychological assistance from Earth if they wish, via long-range communications. The astronauts will initially be chosen for their inherent ability to cope with these situations, and will receive training on how to deal with them most effectively.
Group training will take place in the form of simulation missions. A simulation mission is an extensive, fully immersive exercise that prepares the astronauts for the real mission to Mars. The simulated environment will invoke as many of the Mars conditions as possible. Immediately after selection, the groups will participate in these simulations for a few months per year. During simulations, astronauts will only be able to leave the base when wearing their Mars suits. They will have to take care of their water supply and keep the life support systems up and running. They must also cultivate their own food, and all communications with the outside world will be artificially delayed by twenty minutes.
There will be several simulation bases, some easy to access for early stage, while others will be located in a harsh environments on Earth, providing realistic desert terrain and drastically cold conditions. These trials will demonstrate whether they are suitable for all elements of the task ahead. Can the astronauts keep the group functioning? Will they keep a cool head when confronted with a challenge? Can they effectively and efficiently solve given and uprising problems?
2026 The first crew to land on Mars start their journey from Earth
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.
Journey to Mars
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, computers, and life support systems, and a regimented routine of three hours of 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. However, the astronauts will endure because this will be the flight carrying them to their dream.
2027: First humans land on Mars
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.
Life on Mars
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.
Construction & 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 determine if life was once present or currently exists on Mars.
Reports from 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?
2028 Settlement expands with departure of Crew Two
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.
Risks and Challenges
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 eight 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.
Source: Mars One
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