November 15, 2010

Scientists Propose One-Way Mars Spaceflights

Two U.S. scientists have proposed a unique and somewhat controversial solution to the challenges presented by a potential mission to Mars--they suggest making it a one-way trip.

In their article "To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission To Mars," which has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Cosmology, authors Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University and Paul Davies of Arizona State University propose that nixing a return flight "would cut the costs several fold but ensure at the same time a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars in particular and space in general."

"It would also obviate the need for years of rehabilitation for returning astronauts, which would not be an issue if the astronauts were to remain in the low-gravity environment of Mars," they added, arguing that equipment from the Constellation project--a scrapped return mission to the moon--could be used to send two spacecraft, each containing two astronauts, a landing unit, and enough supplies to establish an outpost, to Mars.

Doing so would be "the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet," Schulze-Makuch and Davies argue, and would mark "a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration."

"The astronauts would be re-supplied on a periodic basis from Earth with basic necessities, but otherwise would be expected to become increasingly proficient at harvesting and utilizing resources available on Mars," they propose. "Eventually the outpost would reach self-sufficiency, and then it could serve as a hub for a greatly expanded colonization program."

Previously, President Barack Obama said that he believed NASA would be able to send astronauts to Mars and back by the mid-2030s, with a landing on the planet expected to follow shortly thereafter. However, Davies, a physicist specializing is cosmology and astrobiology, and Schulze-Makuch, the author of two books about extraterrestrial life, believe that their proposal would be more attractive to private sector spacecraft developers such as Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic or Elon Musk of SpaceX.


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