Print Mars One project raises questions about selflessness
Written by Christopher Fox Graham   
Thursday, 16 May 2013 15:49

This weekend, emigration was again in the news, but on a far larger scale than ever before.

Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit affiliated with several European for-profit media companies, has a plan to send astronauts to Mars by 2023 and set up a permanent colony.

Mars One is a Dutch nonprofit that plans to send astronauts on a one-way trip in 2023 to establish a colony on the red planet, located an average of 225 million kilometers from Earth.The catch? The astronauts can never come home.

Sending a manned mission to Mars and bringing the astronauts home costs upwards of $100 billion — NASA and the European Space Agency plan to do that with a joint operation by 2037.

However, Mars One is planning a one-way trip, which should only cost around $6 billion. Due to the physical changes that happen in zero and low gravity and the prohibitive costs of sending and retrieving astronauts, the four volunteers of Mars One would land on the red planet, establish a settlement and live out the rest of their lives there. An eight-year reality television show about the training process would offset the costs.

The colony would receive occasional extra supplies and groups of four more astronauts to join them every two years, expanding the settlement to 20 colonists by 2033.

Jokes about deporting various politicians or Justin Bieber aside, the mission poses a fascinating thought experiment: Would you take a one-way trip to Mars?

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamMost people who’ve seen all the episodes of “Nova” or “Star Trek” have dreamt about sailing through space, but that would only be the first seven months of the mission. The next 30 or 50 years would be spent on a small, isolated colony 225 million kilometers from Earth staring out the window at a red desert wasteland — a completely different ball game.

Explorers in previous centuries left home to quest for glory or riches, but that isn’t quite the case here. They wanted the glorious return almost more than the actual mission. A Martian colonist could never come home to bask in the glow of admirers, do the talk show circuit, or take advantage of penthouse suites and free champagne at hotels around the world.

So who would volunteer? Some 78,000 people have filled out the application as of Friday, May 10, and posted videos about why the Mars One  Project should choose them.

Some volunteers want the adventure of being the first humans on Mars. Others don’t mind the isolation and want to get away from the rush of life.

I think it comes down to sense of selflessness and duty to our fellow humans. Being the first humans on Mars is a sacrifice made for the benefit of our species and those to follow.

It’s the same sense of duty we see in our neighbors who become teachers, doctors and nurses, form and run nonprofits, or firefighters and law enforcement personnel who risk their lives in emergencies to save someone else.

Sometimes, too, despite our cynicism, we see it in our elected officials who seek to serve their public, not themselves.

Whether the project comes to fruition, the question it poses is fascinating to explore: Would you take a one-way trip to Mars?