Get your one-way ticket to the Red Planet

By: Steven Goodman – Asst. Opinions Editor

Have you ever wanted to visit our neighbor in the solar system, Mars? Let me be more specific. Have you ever wanted to take a one-way trip to Mars with the sole mission of starting a colony on its red surface? Well, if you answered “yes” to the latter, your chance may be long gone, even though the Mars One isn’t set to launch until 2024.

Mars One is a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands with the goal of sending not one, but 24 people to Mars to colonize the planet. Recently, it announced the 100 finalists from a pool of nearly 200,000 applicants to undertake this mission.

I’m guessing many in this application pool were doing it just for fun. Either that, or they weren’t thinking clearly when they threw their names in the hat. I cannot imagine that 200,000 people would genuinely want to leave Earth knowing they would never return from building a civilization from scratch.

Many of the finalists interviewed by CNN and USA Today acknowledge they are terrified of the idea. Reading a few responses, I get the impression that these finalists are at least aware of the reality of the situation.

My favorite responses, though, come from those interviewed by Time magazine. Some of the applicants Time interviewed claimed they had already experienced everything Earth had to offer and it was time to move on to the next big thing. (By the way, every person Time interviewed was in their 20s.) How can you possibly have experienced an entire planet in less than 30 years? There are people older than that who have never left the state they were born in.

I can understand the desire to start a colony on another planet, to build an amazing technological feat straight out of a science fiction movie, but there are far too many unknowns for me.

Where are the doctors? How will there be enough oxygen for them to breathe? Won’t they need a massive amount of supplies to create a permanent shelter and food and water supply? Assuming they have a sufficient amount of supplies, how are they going to grow food on an alien planet? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t begin to imagine growing food on Mars.

In fact, MIT completed a study on the Mars One mission and estimated that the people who go to Mars will last less than 70 days on its surface. MIT’s main reasoning behind this is that most of the technology a Mars colony would need has not yet been invented.

One issue that MIT cites revolves, again, around food. Assuming the new Martians are able to grow crops, it will most likely be in a confined space. Eventually, the oxygen this vegetation produces will build to an excess level, which would start a chain of events leading to the astronauts suffocating. The solution to this problem? A device that will remove excess oxygen from this enclosed space. This device, though, uses a technology which, according to MIT, “has not yet been developed for use in space.”

As someone who grew up loving sci-fi movies, it would be incredible if a colony could be successfully developed on another planet. But when, according to CNN, nearly half of the unmanned missions to Mars have failed, I have very little hope that a manned mission would be successful.

The year 2024 definitely seems like the distant future, and who knows where we’ll be technologically? Either way, I’d prefer to wait until all of the required technology is available before even considering a colony on another planet.

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