Friday, April 25, 2014

Public and Private Efforts Towards a Mission to Mars

In the past decade, organizations varying from governmental institutions to private organizations have been making moves towards planning and executing a manned mission to Mars. These moves seem to be a growing trend in recent years to make space exploration a collective, worldwide effort.

One such private mission that has garnered widespread attention from the media is known as Mars One. Mars One is a private Netherlands-based non-profit organization that has put forward conceptual plans to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2025. The organization intends to send a 4-man mission to the Red Planet at the cost of $6 billion. Despite the outright evidence that shows the health-risks of a potential mission to Mars on human health, 200,000 people have applied to be one of several people to travel to and live on Mars as part of the Mars One mission. Out of those 200,000 people, 1058 people have been put on a “short-list” by the organization. These 200,000 applicants have acknowledged another stipulation of the trip: it is one-way. Those short-listed reflect excitement and optimism about the mission despite that fact, as can be expected. An Israeli man who was shortlisted stated that, despite that fact, the “one thought that keeps him going is ‘about humanity after people landed on the moon. How it inspired everything from science to arts to everything on Earth was deeply influenced by it. I think about what landing on Mars will do to life here.’”1

Aside from private organizations, the government of Britain has made statements demonstrating the intent to send a manned mission to Mars. According to a December 2013 article in the Telegraph, “Britain wants to help build [both] a moon base and send a manned mission to Mars within three decades,” according to Britain’s science minister David Willetts. Willetts emphasized that worldwide cooperation would both be ideal and the most effective method: “if you got the major powers – if you got the Europeans, the Americans and the Chinese working together – [this] is possible.”2 As for the Americans, specifically NASA, no plans for a government-sponsored mission have been outlined as of yet. NASA has made plans to send another rover in 2020, however. This may be because NASA has gauged the economic costs and health risks associated with a manned mission and does not wish to undertake that kind of risk. This reflects how the US is perhaps staying away from international efforts towards space exploration, but that is just speculation on my part.

The idea of making space exploration is appealing to me. In my opinion space exploration in any regard should be a collaborative effort on many fronts, rather than the plans of one nation. I believe Britain is going in the right direction with their statements and intentions. In addition, private organizations in this field are by nature international at least in some regard. As such thus it is clear that we are making moves towards making space exploration a worldwide public effort. A mission to Mars provides such a platform for this collaboration.
Nathaniel Benzaquen-Ouakrat

1Rosen, B. (2014, Jan 22). Israeli shortlisted to travel to mars for reality show. Nadav Neuman one of 1,058 finalists for 24-person colony on red planet. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from

2Hope, Christopher. “Science Minister David Willetts: Britain can help build a moon base and send a manned mission to Mars.” 10 Dec 2013. Telegraph. Web. 24 April 2014.