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Mars NASA Space Science

Mars Journal Issue Inspires Hundreds of One-Way Trip Volunteers 475

Velcroman1 writes "An interplanetary trip to Mars could take as little as 10 months, but returning would be virtually impossible — making the voyage a form of self-imposed exile from Earth unlike anything else in human history. What would inspire someone to volunteer? A special edition of the Journal of Cosmology detailed exactly how a privately-funded, one-way mission to Mars could depart as soon as 20 years from now — and it prompted more than 400 readers to volunteer as colonists. 'I've had a deep desire to explore the universe ever since I was a child and understood what a rocket was,' said Peter Greaves, the father of three, and a jack-of-all-trades who started his own motorcycle dispatch company and fixes computers and engines on the side. 'I envision life on Mars to be stunning, frightening, lonely, quite cramped and busy,' he said. Given the difficulties of the mission, Lana Tao, the editor of the Journal, said she was surprised by the response. 'At first we thought the e-mails were a joke... then we realized they were completely serious.'" Of course, they'd have to compete with the thousands of you who said you'd go.
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Mars Journal Issue Inspires Hundreds of One-Way Trip Volunteers

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  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:55PM (#34826086)
    Is how a father of three could volunteer to depart on what would most likely be a suicide mission. Exploration and the battle against entropy and all that is all good and well, but if one is a father, one has certain responsibilities that are paramount about anything else.

    I will probably get flamed to death about this, but I guess in this case, the guy must be either be completely discontent with his lot in life, or he must be the most selfish, self serving person that exists.
  • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:01PM (#34826182) Journal

    Mission date is +20 years. Unless he has more kids, they will all be adults by the time he takes his trip. Other than some grief during the onset of the mission, it's probably no different than the kid that moves away from the area they grew up for better opportunities.

  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:07PM (#34826306)

    But even my longest (currently) planned trip (a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail) still has me going into town for resupply every week at most and of course ends with me safe back home. On shorter trips I've spent a longer time away from people and civilization (60 days in the woods, but I had made several trips ahead of time to lay in supplies so I didn't need to go anywhere) and it was lonely - but again, in the end I knew I was coming back to the things I felt were "home." Despite going on those kinds of trips (which I venture to say most westerners never even come close to doing), I really can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to make such a trip and *know* that I was never, ever coming back and I would almost certainly never, EVER see any of the people and places I love, and never have the luxury of easy survival that we have here on Earth, even in some of the worst places on the planet, ever again.

    I know there are many people who would volunteer for such a trip - I certainly think it would be pessimistic to think that we couldn't find several thousand people who are qualified and capable of making the trip. Heck, maybe I'd even be one of them, but based on my experience simply removing myself from human company for 2 months, probably not. In any case, people like that "father of three" volunteering just come off as romantic and not particularly thoughtful.

    We don't have anything comparable to abandoning *for sure* everything you know and settling somewhere new in our race's living memory. We have a handful of people alive who were born in the very late 1890's - when crossing from Europe to the Americas was not unreasonable to contemplate doing twice, or being able to send for one's family, or otherwise not cut oneself off from everything you knew. Even Columbus made it here and back - there really would be nothing comparable in even the most charitable definition of modern times.

    Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but I do wonder what people who could do this one-way-for-sure trip and survive would be like. I have lived without the streets of my city underfoot and the ceilings of my home overhead, but I can't imagine what it would do to me to have alien soil under alien skies and know I'd never set foot on Earth again.

  • by berryjw ( 1071694 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:15PM (#34826444)
    We've been wandering off on one-way trips for most of human existence, even if most didn't completely realize the nature of the trips. Huge numbers of immigrants to the Americas *knew* it was one-way, the journey was treacherous, and none of it would be easy, and huge numbers of them didn't survive. The human animal is, by nature, an exploratory creature, of course many of us would go. Many more of us would go afterward, over the bones of those before us, armed with what little knowledge their passing gave us, because the hope of success would so mightily outshine any sense of hope left here.
  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:18PM (#34826528) Journal

    but if one is a father, one has certain responsibilities that are paramount about anything else.

    Oh - now that's something I disagree with and I'll probably get flamed more than you.

    I could be a terrible father. I don't have any children, and I don't want any for a bit (I'm still pretty young). But if I were to have 3 kids tomorrow I would much rather put them up for adoption than try raising them myself. I've still got to pay off my school debt, I've got living expenses of my own, heck I might be switching jobs soon. Money is going to be tight.

    I know it's not morally justified or anything like that, but if I had kids right now I would end up having this animosity towards them that they ruined my 20's, caused me so much stress, caught me unprepared - basically a bunch of negative energy. I'd do my best to be a loving parent but I won't deny that those thoughts would be there. As such, I'd probably make a terrible father. When there are people out there unable to have children, who are much more loving than I and would be overjoyed with being able to take care of my kids.

    Whether that's being selfish or selfless - I don't know. When one option is both better for the kids and better for me, does that make me a bad person?

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw@ y a h o o . com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:19PM (#34826536) Journal

    You know what benefit parents give their children? Life. Beat that one, I dare you.

  • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:21PM (#34826576)

    Who else but the selfish can bring themselves to thrust children into this world of ours?

    I totally disagree with this.

    Prior to having children, my wife and I talked about the massive expense and inconvenience, and weighed it against our responsibility to THEM, the unborn children. We literally held their lives in our hands (in the form of Birth Control devices), and decided that the right, UNselfish thing to do was to give them life.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:24PM (#34826606) Homepage Journal

    He's a father of three.

    He's exceeded the replacement rate, obviously he's an irresponsible bastard driving the overpopulation engine.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:26PM (#34826642)
    Some of us don't think this world is really all that bad. You may think so, but my kids really happy and has an excellent chance at leading an extremely happy life. If you want to crawl in a hole a die childless and hating the world, that's fine.
  • Re:People (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:31PM (#34826716) Journal

    Nonsense. Two hundred years ago, Yankee whalers spent 3 and more years from land. Four hundred years ago, the British Navy circumnavigated the world. And Magellan before them. Yes, there were causalities.

    American fur trappers would spend years away from their native cultures. People today spend decades in solitary confinement and come out relatively unscathed.

    And any adventure these men and women underwent would have better health associated it with any of the above adventures mentioned. (Yes, adventure. The proper use of the word.) Further, there would be every anticipation that these people would be the best and the brightest that humanity has to offer.

    There is too much mollycoddling and emphasis placed today on psychological wellbeing and, frankly, life. H. sapiens is a hardy group. We have survived pandemics, world wars, climate change, and every other predator on the planet. It's just a matter of effort to move to Mars. It should be done, and the sooner the better.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:36PM (#34826788)

    > or sending volunteers on a one way trip to Mars: these are not actions that can be tolerated by a moral society.

    Thank-you for dictating your morality [on] to me. NOT.

    I have the right to live (or die) on my own as I see fit. e.g. If I wish to kill my lungs (smoking), my liver (drinking), that alone is my choice. I don't of course. I wish others didn't either, but that is THEIR right (and choice.) The fact that you are blind to the other side of the equation demonstrates you have this have the false belief that morality of soceity is "absolute" -- it is not, it is relative. Any _truely_ free society does not have right to impose only one set of group consensus of morals onto others -- who determines what is "right" ?

    Now piss off. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:43PM (#34826878)

    I really can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to make such a trip and *know* that I was never, ever coming back and I would almost certainly never, EVER see any of the people and places I love

    Of course you can *see* them. Even interact with them. But not directly. This isn't 1600 where you went to the Americas and are never heard from again. We have things like radio communication (yes, I'm including ALL types of RF including WiFi and whatnot).

    Unlike the pioneers of 1600, you would live in annals of history. At least on the Wikipedia page as the first attempted colonization of another world, be it successful or spectacular failure.

    Finally, having a few people around you is not "isolated".

    So yes, I would volunteer too. And I'm serious about it. There are tens of thousands of people that are qualified and would volunteer too. Hell, it may at least result in the nutjobs in the governments from focusing on the "terrists" or Assange and start focusing on constructive; on the future. Ditto for the extremists and any sympathizers. For that alone, this program would be worth every penny, or every billion, spent.

  • Re:Pioneers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatAntibob ( 1549139 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#34826974)

    Pioneers also had a reasonable expectation of finding breathable air, arable soil, animals to hunt for food/clothing, timber and stone for building homes, and drinkable water. Yet, the death rate among most pioneer groups was also unacceptably high (by our modern standards). You almost always had a majority or all of several pioneer groups die in the attempt (Donner party?). In the more modern case of the Spanish, French, and British colonies in the Americas, the colonists had to be supplied from the home countries for years before becoming close to semi-reliant. In the case of the first few British colonies, the mortality rate was in excess of 50% for decades. Even after the US declared independence, the Americans relied on Europe for manufactured goods for most of a century.

    Simple is NOT the same as easy. There's a reason why most initial pioneering groups were often poor, felons, or other sorts of outcasts. It's easy to throw your life away if it already really sucks. And they did die. In droves.

  • by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:50PM (#34827002)

    In the 1960's we made it to the moon in 8 years, when NO ONE has ever been out of earth's orbit before the program started. And we got the men back safely to earth. And we did it several times.

    Now, 40 years later, we think it will take 20 years to do a ONE WAY trip to the moon?

    Our sense of ambition disappoints me. We should go to Mars and we should bring those people back. They will be heroes and we should not let them die. I understand that some people think its a waste of money, and other people would rather we go one way then don't go at all, but I'd rather we just go, and quit worrying about the cost (well, I mean we shouldn't waste money, obviously - we should do it as economically as is reasonable).

    If we took just 5-10% of *one years worth* of our hyperinflated military budget (which would give us $70 billion for the Mars trip. That should be enough.), we could go to Mars and back, in 10 years. So, 1% total from the military budget over 10 years. You think Mars is a waste of money? Our military is a waste of money. Lets take 1% of it and do some inspirational work.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:53PM (#34827080) Homepage

    In the 1600's people from Europe went to colonize the new world. They brought with them tools and provisions to start a new life. Few of them went back home, in fact some of the ships that landed on American shores were taken apart for their wood to build shelter. There is a big difference between the colonization of America and the possible colonization of Mars. (Mars can't support life without a lot of technology that must be brought along, the new world was still Earth!) But the idea of leaving home and never going back with only limited communication possible with those left behind is the same. (It will actually be EASIER for the Mars colonists to communicate with their loved ones left behind than it was for the American colonists!) Eventually as the new world colonies grew, so did trade and it became possible for the colonists to travel back to Europe, and the same will happen for future Mars colonists.

    Europe didn't start to colonize the America's until there were large fleets of ships plying the waters of the Atlantic. Until we have the same kind of access to space that 17th Century Europe had to the Atlantic I don't see us being able to colonize Mars. I also think we should establish a colony on the moon first, if for no other reason than to test the required technology.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:16PM (#34827430) Homepage Journal

    "Who else but the selfish can bring themselves to thrust children into this world of ours?"

    Well, ignoring the obvious (your parents' decision, for starters), Your attitude is the one that is lacking both a reasonable foundation and any consistency.

    If this world is so terrible, why didn't you check out? Or at the very least minimize your interaction and pain? Slashdot is not a minimizing of any of that, my friend.

    Self-serving statements like this sound all witty and wise, but are pure snark, and intended to either leave us with that sense of guilt for having been part of something so painful to you (and by extension others). But you just make this up to answer some desire you have for attention or respect. One without the other, you get. Nice.

    Life. If it isnt good enough for you, you have to fix that. Whatever the cause, it's your problem.

    And we have children for all of the reasons you describe. All of them. Some parents want their children to share the world they love. Is that selfish?

  • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:45PM (#34827856)

    A better comparison would be to the "colonization" of Antarctica, except that Antarctica is far, far more hospitable a place than Mars. Not only is it much warmer than Mars, but the atmosphere contains lots of oxygen, and there's plenty of water lying about. It's not cheap to get your gear and supplies there, but it doesn't cost a bazillion dollars per kilo, either.

    Conversely, anyone volunteering to go to Mars - permanently or not - ought to be required to live by themselves in some remote outpost in Antarctica for several years, with only a ton or two of materials and supplies with which to build shelter and sustain themselves for the duration. If you can't figure out how to do that, you have no business on Mars.

  • by sean.peters ( 568334 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:42PM (#34828622) Homepage

    And blow off the "why". What possible reason is there to colonize Mars? Actually, an even better question is this: how can colonizing Mars pay off? Bear in mind that it would cost billions or even trillions of dollars to get a colony established on Mars. Also bear in mind that Mars is mostly made of iron oxide and silicates - just like earth. Leave aside the enormous initial investment, how would you even recover operating costs? There is literally nothing you could produce on Mars and deliver to markets on earth that you couldn't source more cheaply on earth.

    Investors and/or taxpayers would have to shell out staggering amounts of money to make this happen... what's in it for them?

  • Families on Mars? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pyrr ( 1170465 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:04PM (#34828906)

    Why is anyone even thinking about kids on Mars or "breeding teams"?

    I think Elton John had it right in his song on this very theme, "Mars ain't no place to raise your kids". I can think of dozens of reasons that would be a Very Bad Idea, but the major ones:

    Kids are a huge drain on resources-- not just the basic resources like food, water, and space that they'd consume, but also the time of the adult settlers who have to care for them and teach them. Mars settlers need sustainability more than they need their numbers replenished. In all likelihood, settlers would need to, on average, produce substantially more than they consume in order to get a colony set-up and make it viable. Once a colony reaches the level of sustainability that provides an excess capacity of resources (time, food, and water), then and only then would children be feasible within the colony.

    It's also pretty unethical to birth a child, who had no choice in the matter, into that sort of lifestyle. Yes, that argument could (and maybe should) also be made for a number of lifestyles, such as poverty or war, but it is possible to get past those situations with enough effort or a migration. Until 2-way travel is established, life in a Mars settlement is the only possible option for a child born there. Putting someone in that position who never consented to it is kind of shitty.

    On a related note, it probably wouldn't matter what age of adults went on the voyage, within a reasonable range, say 21-50. Not everyone would need to be young, only in reasonably good shape and able to contribute. Just like how a military tends to work, the younger, inexperienced people would do most of the labor and take the physical risks, while the older and more experienced folks would probably be able to contribute more knowledge and experience to the effort, as well as performing lighter labor. There's also the advantage of not having as much "life" to lose if something goes horribly wrong and the settlers' lives are cut short. Regardless of how or when they might die, which all the settlers will do sooner or later, they'd just become soylent anyway. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how it would have to go down, at least for a while, there is just too much water and useful stuff in a corpse to let it go to waste in a resource-starved colony.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!