Mars Exchange
Can you explain how Mars One’s budget estimate of $6 billion was reached?

Can you explain how Mars One’s budget estimate of $6 billion was reached?

by Natasha Schön on Tuesday, 25th August 2015 in Inside 360, People, Arno Wielders

Arno Wielders, the co-founder and CTO of Mars One, currently divides his time between Mars One and working at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) of the European Space Agency as a payload study manager for new planetary mission studies and as a payload systems engineer for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission. In a previous story, he provided insight into how the Mars One mission was initially designed. In this story, Arno Wielders answers burning questions in a personal interview about the Mars One mission budget.

What we did to create the budget was look at previous space projects, previous cost estimates performed by NASA and ESA, and developments in the commercial framework. We also looked at what was needed for a one-way mission to Mars for four people that will go on to colonize the planet. After this initial analysis, we identified the major components and the kind of systems that needed to be designed. We took into account the testing, manufacturing, construction, and all related costs to get to the final number of $6 billion. I would like to stress that it’s not Mars One that has developed these costs and conducted all the work and research. Instead we buy, and will continue to buy, knowledge in addition to putting contracts in place so that further studies and developments can be executed by the companies who should be doing it. These companies have been sending payloads to Mars for around 20-30 years, so they know what they are doing.

We think this final number of $6 billion is enough but we cannot be absolutely certain that the costs won’t fluctuate as we get further into the project. Costs may rise depending on if we find something that is extremely important to implement, and would significantly enhance the mission. Generally, it’s not possible to give a more detailed account of the costs because some of the numbers are provided by companies in the U.S and there are restrictions in ITAR. This restriction means that the quotes we receive are confidential and thus, we cannot make that information public.

Additionally, often people ask us why our cost estimate is lower than other estimates. Firstly, spaceflight currently depends a lot on the political arena. In my opinion, this means that before any mission is approved and before money is allocated to a mission various political discussions need to occur. These discussions revolve around where and how the money should be spent. This whole process and the hurdles that need to be overcome is a huge cost itself. Secondly, we do not need to consider a return trip - this dramatically decreases the amount of money spent on the mission. The technology needed to do this would take a lot of development, which is also a huge cost.

This story was contributed by Arno Wielders, co-founder and CTO of Mars One.

Find out more about Mars One's mission to Mars here: 

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