MIT researchers cast doubts on feasibility of Mars One mission
MIT researchers have analysed Mars One's plan to create a human colony on the Red Planet by 2025 and found that the settlers may face deadly problems, including suffocation and starvation.
Washington: MIT researchers have analysed Mars One's plan to create a human colony on the Red Planet by 2025 and found that the settlers may face deadly problems, including suffocation and starvation.
In 2012, Dutch nonprofit organisation Mars One announced its ambitious plans to send four people on a one-way trip to Mars, where they would spend the rest of their lives building the first permanent human settlement.
So far, 705 aspirants, including 44 Indians, have been shortlisted for the one-way trip to Mars.
It's a bold vision - particularly since Mars One claims that the entire mission can be built upon technologies that already exist.
But engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the project may have to take a step back, at least to reconsider the mission's technical feasibility.
They found that new technologies will be needed to keep humans alive on Mars.
Simulating the day-to-day life of a Mars colonist, researchers found that producing enough of the crops such as beans, peanuts, potatoes and rice to sustain astronauts over the long term would require about 200 square meters of growing area, compared with Mars One's estimate of 50 square meters.
If all food is obtained from locally grown crops, as Mars One envisions, the vegetation would produce unsafe levels of oxygen, setting off series of events that would eventually cause human inhabitants to suffocate.
To avoid this scenario, a system to remove excess oxygen would have to be implemented - a technology that has not yet been developed for use in space.
Similarly, the Mars Phoenix lander has discovered evidence of ice on the Martian surface, suggesting that future settlers might be able to melt ice for drinking water.
But according to the MIT analysis, current technologies designed to "bake" water from soil are not yet ready for deployment, particularly in space.
The researchers found that as the colony grows, spare parts would quickly dominate future deliveries to Mars, making up as much as 62 per cent of payloads from Earth.
According to the Mars One plan, six Falcon Heavy rockets would be required to send up initial supplies, before the astronauts' arrival.
But the MIT assessment found that number to be "overly optimistic": The team determined that the needed supplies would instead require 15 Falcon Heavy rockets.
The transportation cost for this leg of the mission alone, combined with the astronauts' launch, would be USD 4.5 billion.
"We're not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible. But we do think it's not really feasible under the assumptions they've made," said Olivier de Weck, an MIT professor.
"We're pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path," de Weck said.