Have you ever wished you could leave the Earth and set foot on an alien planet? Now, you have the chance.
If you want you can travel to the Red Planet, but remember what you get is a one-way ticket and there is no possibility you will be able to return to your
This is by no means science fiction. The Dutch not-for-profit organization Mars One is currently accepting applications from people who want to travel and
settle down on the Red Planet.
According to the organization's website the goal is to "take humanity to Mars in
2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn, and grow.
Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive astronauts every two years.
To accomplish this, Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies. It is both economically and logistically feasible,
in motion through the integration of existing suppliers and experts in space exploration."
The organization has already received thousands of applications and more are expected.
The goal is to set up a human colony on Mars. Image credit: Mars One
Years of training
The preparations are hard and if you are accepted you will spend years of training for the trip.
"Before they leave the Earth's atmosphere to travel to Mars, each astronaut will be put through the required eight years of training.
They will be isolated from the world for a few months every two years in groups of four in simulation facilities, to learn how they respond to living in
close quarters while isolated from all humans except for the three crew members.
In addition to the expertise and work experience they must already possess, they have to learn quite a few new skills: physical and electrical repairs to the settlement structures,
cultivating crops in confined spaces, and addressing both routine and serious medical issues such as dental upkeep, muscle tears and bone fractures."
Successful applicants will be trained physically and psychologically. Image credit: NASA
A dangerous journey
Human space exploration is dangerous at all levels. This journey will be dangerous and risky. Mars is an unforgiving environment
where a small mistake or accident can result in large failure, injury, and death.
Mars is in the firing line of the Sun's high energy particles, called solar wind. The atmosphere of Mars is very thin as the
solar wind is thought to have stripped much of it away.
On Earth, we are protected from the solar wind by a strong magnetic field. Without this, it would be much more difficult to
survive. Although Mars once had similar protection about four billion years ago, today there is no such shield protecting it.
The Martian surface is therefore extremely hostile to life, says Dr Veronica Bray, from the University of Arizona's Lunar
and Planetary Laboratory, who is sceptical about the project.
There's no liquid water, the atmospheric pressure is "practically a vacuum", radiation levels are higher and temperatures vary wildly, she says.
The settlement will grow. The project aims to send another four people into this new space community every two years
Image credit: Mars One
"Radiation exposure is a concern, especially during the trip. This can lead to increased cancer risk, a lowered immune system and possibly infertility."
To minimise radiation, the project team will cover the domes with several metres of soil, which the colonists will have to dig up.
"I have no doubt that we could physically place a human being on Mars. Whether they'd be able to survive for an extended period of time is much more doubtful," adds Dr Bray.
Ambassador for the project, Professor Gerard 't Hooft, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for theoretical physics in 1999, admits there are unknown health risks. He says the radiation is "of quite a different nature" than anything which has been tested on Earth.
"They [the applicants] will be told that there are risks, but it will be our responsibility to keep the risks within acceptable odds."
According to the Mars One's statement "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, computer and life support systems, and a regimented
routine of 3 hours 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 conditions on Mars are harsh. Image credit: NASA
The journey will be arduous, pressing each of them to the very limits of their training and personal capacity. But the astronauts will endure because
this will be the flight carrying them to their dream."
Will this mission succeed? It depends on a number of factors. Dr Chris Lintott from Oxford University says that while the project is technologically
plausible, he does not think they will find the funding.
"It's about having the political will and the financial muscle to make this happen. That's what nobody has been able to solve so far," he explains
It will cost an estimated £3.8bn ($6bn) to send the first group.