Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One way trip to Mars has 200,000 takers

From the NYTimes of December 8, 2014:
Where NASA-style flight plans are designed on the Apollo moonshot model of round-trip tickets, the “one” in Mars One means, starkly, one way. To make the project feasible and affordable, the founders say, there can be no coming back to Earth. Would-be Mars pilgrims must count on living, and dying, some 140 million miles from the splendid blue marble that all humans before them called home.

Nevertheless, enthusiasm for the Mars One scheme has been of middle-school proportions. Last year, the outfit announced that it was seeking potential colonists and that anybody over age 18 could apply, advanced degrees or no. Among the few stipulations: Candidates must be between 5-foot-2 and 6-foot-2, have a ready sense of humor and be “Olympians of tolerance.” More than 200,000 people from dozens of countries applied. Mars One managers have since whittled the pool to some 660 semifinalists.
Why go?
The various reasons offered for sending humans to Mars, at a cost of billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars — “but less expensive than the war in Iraq!” insisted Andrew Rader, a Mars One candidate and expert in human spaceflight with a doctorate from M.I.T. — include elements both practical and profound, optimistic and dystopian. Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, said that for all the success of robots like Curiosity, sending humans to the surface “may be the only way to prove life evolved on Mars and what the nature of it is.” And demonstrating that some form of life arose at least twice in our solar system would lend ballast to the argument that the universe teems with life. Humans will soon need more space and more resources than Earth can offer, Dr. Shostak said, adding, “If you want to have Homo sapiens for the long run, you have to move out somewhere.” Whatever hardships the Mars homesteaders endure, Mr. Lansdorp argued, may well improve life for those back on Earth. “We’re a species that explores and pushes boundaries,” he said. “By exploring our own planet, we’ve developed technology to make our life more comfortable. Mars is the next logical step, the boundary to push, to make us more developed still.”
H/t 3 Quarks Daily.

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