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Why Did 400 People Volunteer for a One-Way Trip to Mars?

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of the Journal of Cosmology until today, maybe because it only started in 2009.

According to the “About” page, the Journal of Cosmology is a peer-reviewed, free, open-access, online publication that gets roughly 50,000 readers a month.

The editorial board includes names from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, NASA, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Caltech, and the University of Oxford—not a bad lineup.

The latest issue, dated October-November 2010, features a whopping 55 papers under the umbrella title “The Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet.”

mars-hills-colony.jpg

Home, sweet home? A Martian ridge, seen by NASA’s Spirit rover.

—Photograph courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell

Many of these papers read more like perspective pieces than presentations of new research, which may be another reason this particular journal was off my radar.

In all, the authors discuss every facet of a potential Mars colony, including energy requirements, lander and settlement designs, psychological stresses, robotic helpers—even the risks involved with babies being conceived during the nine-month trip to the red planet. [To quote from the paper: "Humans are notorious for inventing ways of having sex despite all manner of logistical impediments."]

One take-away message from this suite of studies is that many scientists think a privately funded, one-way mission to colonize Mars would be possible within the next 20 years.

And it seems plenty of people agree with them.

According to FoxNews.com, just over a month after this issue came out, more than 400 people have contacted the journal editors to volunteer for the trip.

“I do VERY well with solitude,” wrote 69-year-old computer programmer Pasha Rostov, according to FoxNews.com.

“I am handy with tools, very good at making things work, … and am quite sane and stable.”

Other volunteers included a college student, a nurse, a mechanic, and a Methodist pastor.

“I have the feeling that spiritual issues would come up among the crew. The early explorers on Earth always took clergy with them,” Reverend Paul Gregersen told FoxNews.com.

The unexpected response raises an interesting question: If a private group ever did manage to launch a mission to start a Mars base, who would go?

Would the kinds of people who could make a Martian colony work be the kinds of people who would want to volunteer?

And who decides what the right kinds of people are?

NASA, for example, has some pretty stringent requirements for what it takes to be an astronaut [PDF], from educational and professional background to physical and emotional endurance.

Some might make the argument that no one was vetted before setting of for the New World in the 1600s. Heck, England exiled thousands of convicts to the colonies before the revolution.

The difference is part technological, part political.

Colonists arriving in America could be assured of some basic needs: water, air, soil for growing crops and raising livestock, raw materials for building settlements.

Mars colonists would have none of that to depend on, so they would need a very different set of skills and tools to survive.

In addition, that very first one-way trip to Mars would carry a certain prestige. You *know* you’d be famous, even if you died the minute after you set foot on red regolith.

I’d bet that the public would demand only the best and brightest [and probably the most attractive] sign up for the job.

In a nongovernmental mission, I guess whoever’s footing the bill would get to make the final call, so I’m sure that would affect the backgrounds of the first Mars colonists, too.

Now, the Journal of Cosmology didn’t even ask for takers, and of their 50,000 monthly readers, 400 said, Heck yeah! That’s 0.8 percent of people who supposedly read the Mars issue.

If you asked for volunteers among the 307,006,550 people living in the United States, by that math you’d get almost 2.5 million volunteers.

Yes, this is not a perfect calculation.

That figure would be reduced by the fact that people who read the JoC must be space buffs to begin with, and so somewhat self-selecting for people willing to go permanently off-world.

Also, not everyone who would volunteer for such a mission would be qualified. But if you only need three or four hardy, skilled colonists, I think it could happen.

Would you go? If so, why do you think you’re qualified? Comment below, or send an email to vjaggard@ngs.org.

Comments

  1. Dinesh
    USA
    January 8, 10:45 am

    I donno, how world is allowing this organized murder a technically called one-way trip, when sucide is considered a crime? any answers ?

  2. Bongie hyslop
    Scotland/ glasgow
    November 2, 2012, 12:17 am

    I would love to go,dead or alive.if i die before i would like my body to be taken there and exposed to the mars environment see how i will decompose , how the flesh will be eaten by menganism or maybe my body can carry bacteria that will creat life there. Ha ha ha just saying.

  3. Art
    September 23, 2012, 2:21 am

    I would go! my brain never stops working therefore if I go to mars I will think for good!

  4. Eric Rodriguez
    United States
    May 4, 2012, 11:41 pm

    i’d definitely go, ever since i was a kid i’ve dreamed of one day going into space… even if it was one way and suicidal i’d still go.. just for a chance to see another planet with my own two eyes just once.

  5. Val Drooger
    Bristow, VA
    April 25, 2012, 5:03 pm

    I volunteer!

  6. Thomas Fisher
    April 20, 2012, 8:12 pm

    Sure, I’d go to Mars in a heartbeat, even knowing that it would be a one way trip.

    As Mr Rostov stated, I am handy with tools and extremely good at making things work.

    In addition, I function extremely well under pressure, even to the point of solving complex technical problems in a situation where minutes matter. I actually get calmer and am happier the more intense the pressure is, and I have been described as a crisis junkie.

    I’ve got a background in computers and construction (amongst other things). I’ve worked as a crew member on drag racing teams, and I am not intimidated when it comes to fixing or understanding anything that men can build.

    Bottom line is I’d go. I’d want a few months to brush up on my machine tool skills, Mars survival skills, and any equipment I would have available during the trip or after reaching the planet. And I would want a few more months and a lot of instruction on growing plants under Martian conditions.

    Beyond that give me an iPad and unlimited free access to iBooks and I’ll be set. Sign me up. I’m not afraid to die while making the attempt.

  7. Agustin Martinez
    Roosevelt,Utah
    April 17, 2012, 5:34 pm

    I’d love to go tothe red planet aka Mars.

  8. Ragot
    France 52310
    February 25, 2012, 5:00 pm

    Natural way to “travel” to remote galaxies: reincarnation!

  9. Ragot
    France 52310
    February 25, 2012, 12:04 pm

    prior to colonize Mars it’s a must to be protected against harmful cosmic rays beyond the protection of the Earth electromagnetic field as it is the case for the iss just 400km above head and because of that experiments on the iss are not realistic! Until now we have not found an efficient means protecting us against cosmic rays! Riding an asteroid would be one among others! And prior to going there it’s necessary to send robots to prepare bipedes arrival so that they have water, plants, energy, etc…

  10. Dustin Thomas
    Gadsden, AL
    November 10, 2011, 4:00 pm

    Hell yeah, I’d go! I love travelling and I think it’d be amazing to be able to go to a different planet! And yes, I figure I’m pretty well-qualified. I am in the United States Army so there’s no doubting a background of professionalism there. I’m skilled with weapons of any kind, land navigation, computer technology, basic first aid (combat first aid), survival-ism, and I’m learning more everyday. I feel that if this opportunity ever arrives, I would do any and everything to be able to go.

  11. ali waqas
    pakistan
    November 8, 2011, 11:19 pm

    wao!! it will be fun and very interesting to discover the new world , i am ready to go .

  12. Charles
    United States
    November 7, 2011, 7:34 pm

    At least there is no life there for us to kill (supposedly). Even if I were qualified, I would not go. I would rather try to fix problems caused by our species here instead of “blowing this popsicle stand.”

  13. zmikers
    November 6, 2011, 6:26 pm

    And yet again, why do Americans see themselves as the only people on Earth? Why is this experiment only open to Americans? Are people so arrogant that you believe the only qualified people for the job must be American? There are a lot more than 307,006,550 people populating this planet to choose from.

  14. tim
    November 6, 2011, 2:21 pm

    Of course… if given the chance to do ANYTHING That would change everything about humanity’s future, you have to give it all…. it wouldn’t be for job… or a religion…. it’s for the future of. Everything we know and Everything our future generations can learn…. I mean look at what the discovery of America did for the world… imagine the discovery and colonization of another planet… this could above all help learn what is possible on earth… I WANT TO GO!!

  15. Larry L Moiola
    United States
    November 6, 2011, 2:06 pm

    I’m in.. they’d need QA engineers probably… the term “mission-critical systems” takes a whole new meaning.

  16. Yuri Gagarin
    October 23, 2011, 4:54 pm

    I can’t imagine anyone funding such a trip. Everyone loses it in the void. It’s really not going to look good for the funding source when the crew either commits suicide or kills each other. Just a matter of time.

  17. major tom
    September 29, 2011, 12:48 am

    It would be epic and amazing for a while. But eventually once the novelty wears off after a couple years I think I’d get tired of all that red sand and pine for the glorious blue and green beauty of the magnificent earth. I’d even miss the crowds and cities terribly and I’m not a social person. There is so much to do and see here.

    But if called upon would I go? Of course. Why? I really have no idea. I just would. Many rationalizations cycle through my mind (great adventure, natural urge for exploration) but none of them feels quite right. The answer is something deeper, an unknown and perhaps unknowable subconscious driving force that will continually propel our species to new frontiers. The stars belong to man.

  18. Race Baker
    OK, USA
    June 3, 2011, 10:21 am

    Yes, I would go. I’m available and could actually take blowing this popsicle stand for good. Let me know!