NASA Mars report: “We will be going to stay”
by Bas Lansdorp on Monday, 30th November 2015 in People, Bas Lansdorp
My heart jumped out of my chest when I read this line. It is part of a report released by NASA in October 2015 titled “NASA’s Journey to Mars – Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration.” Yes, settling Mars. It is actually in the first paragraph of the report: "NASA is leading our nation and our world on a journey to Mars. Like the Apollo program, we embark on this journey for all humanity. Unlike Apollo, we will be going to stay".
NASA has envisioned a variety of humans-to-Mars mission concepts since before the Apollo missions, and the idea that Mars is suitable for permanent settlement has been alive in NASA since the Viking missions. However, this is the first time permanent settlement is stated so clearly and prominently as a goal. What historically has been a vague, far future plan has become NASA’s key message.
NASA is not the only one, permanent settlement is slowly becoming a more accepted idea. Buzz Aldrin, NASA's second man on the Moon, pleaded for Mars permanence before the U.S. Congress in February 2015, saying: “I envision a program of settlement that schedules most of the crews who go to Mars will remain and establish a permanent settlement there.”
As CEO of Mars One, I am extremely happy with these developments. Mars One's plan has always been permanent settlement. When more than 200,000 people applied for our mission in response to the job vacancies we opened in 2013, it showed the world that "one-way trips" to Mars are not only acceptable but desirable for a large number of inhabitants of our planet. It makes me proud to think the massive response to our project was possibly one of the reasons NASA has made permanent settlement a more prominent goal in their roadmap.
NASA's new report also includes planned return missions from Mars back to Earth. It mentions the challenges involved with a 20 metric ton, unfueled Mars Ascent Vehicle, along with other challenges for return, such as transporting return propulsion stages and fuel to Mars orbit, producing over 10 metric tons of propellant on the surface of Mars for the ascent vehicle, and maintaining crew health before Earth entry after 1,100 days of microgravity. Mars One's permanent-presence scenario avoids having to address these challenges, instead focusing on living and working on Mars’ surface.
(More detail on reasons for permanent settlement? Check out my related post: Why “The Martian” will not get stuck on Mars – by accident.
I sincerely hope that NASA's recent inclusion of permanent settlement in their strategy for Mars exploration is actually the start of a process that will – one day – result in an announcement that their first crew will go there to stay. Permanent settlement makes manned Mars exploration so much more rewarding, less costly, and less risky than the round-trip approach. What is the value of a crew going back to Earth? The permanent settlers' extended time on the surface building, researching and exploring an entire new world will continue inspire us – indefinitely.
Written by Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and Co-founder.