Colonizing the planet of Mars has always been a popular plot of science fiction movies, but now it appears that one organization is working hard to make that a reality.
Conditions on the surface of Mars are much closer to the conditions of Earth of any other known planet or moon, as seen by the extremely hot and cold temperatures on Mercury, the furnace-hot surface of Venus, or the cryogenic cold of the outer planets and their moons.
Only the cloud tops of Venus are closer in terms of Earth-like temperature, atmospheric pressure and gravity than the surface of Mars. Humans have explored parts of the Earth which match some conditions on Mars. Extreme cold in the Arctic and Antarctic match all but the most extreme temperatures on Mars.
A non-profit organization has a very aggressive goal of having the planet colonized by 2023.
A Dutch-backed project called Mars One hopes to place the first human colony on the red planet by April 2023.
To fund the venture, the project will present a large-scale media blitz that will be like an interplanetary reality show.
Mars One is working toward setting up communications and flying a supply mission by 2016, with a rover to follow two years later. The rover will explore the surface of Mars, looking for suitable places to start a colony, which will begin construction in 2020. Mars One has been in talks with companies specializing in private spaceflight and has gotten firm commitments for the transport of colony components.
The project sees companies wishing to be a part of the big event paying a lot of money for advertising space.
“We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it,” Mars One co-founder Bas Landorp said in the video. “Everybody in the world can see everything that will happen in the preparations and on Mars.”
“This is going to be a media spectacle; Big Brother will pale in comparison. The whole world will be watching and experience this journey,” said Gerard ‘t Hooft, a Nobel laureate and physicist who is an acting ambassador for Mars One.
Mars One is not the only party interested in colonizing the red planet. President Barack Obama has told NASA that American astronauts should be exploring on Mars by year 2035.
In order to start their first colony, the organization is now starting to take applications from individuals that are interested in living on the Red Planet.
While no human has yet gone on a mission to Mars, the MarsOne organization is accepting applications from anyone, regardless of whether the work for NASA.
The only requirements is that the individual is over 18 years of age and is in good mental and physical health. To start planning for the colony, the organization plans to start sending robotic machines and cargo to the planet in 2016.
Then, the colony will be built over a 7 year period before any humans start to live on the planet.
Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to Mars colonization.
The Mars One venture says more than 200,000 people registered their interest in taking a one-way trip to the Red Planet, but only a fraction of those are officially in the running for the trip.
To be precise, 2,782 people have paid their registration fee and submitted public videos in which they make their case for going to Mars in 2023 — with no guarantee that they’ll ever come back. That’s calculated simply by adding up how many pages of videos are listed on Mars One’s website (278 pages, at 10 videos per page, plus two extra).
“Aspiring Martians who have missed Round 1 or could not meet the age restriction can join subsequent astronaut selection programs,” Monday’s news release said. “Mars One will commence regular recruitment programs as the search for follow-up crews continues.”
According to the site, the red planet isn’t really all that different from Earth:
The Earth is much like its “sister planet” Venus in bulk composition, size and surface gravity, but Mars’ similarities to Earth are more compelling when considering colonization. These include:
The Martian day (or sol) is very close in duration to Earth’s. A solar day on Mars is 24 hours 39 minutes 35.244 seconds. (See timekeeping on Mars.)
Mars has a surface area that is 28.4% of Earth’s, only slightly less than the amount of dry land on Earth (which is 29.2% of Earth’s surface). Mars has half the radius of Earth and only one-tenth the mass. This means that it has a smaller volume (~15%) and lower average density than Earth.
Mars has an axial tilt of 25.19°, compared with Earth’s 23.44°. As a result, Mars has seasons much like Earth, though they last nearly twice as long because the Martian year is about 1.88 Earth years. The Martian north pole currently points at Cygnus, not Ursa Minor.
Mars has an atmosphere. Although it is very thin (about 0.7% of Earth’s atmosphere) it provides some protection from solar and cosmic radiation and has been used successfully for aerobraking of spacecraft.
Recent observations by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Phoenix Lander confirm the presence of water ice on Mars. Mars appears to have significant quantities of all the elements necessary to support Earth-based life.
Keep up with the project by following the Mars One twitter page.