Humanity must colonise space to survive and “escape beyond our fragile planet”, according to Stephen Hawking. But what are the realities of mankind settling down on a planet other than our own? The future of travel doesn’t get more bold than life on Mars...
With technology thriving from all different quadrants around the world, the great space race is officially on. And for many that means getting us to our neighbouring planet, the planet most likely to sustain human life: Mars. Here are some of the major developments that are currently taking place to get us there.
Not-for-profit Netherlands organization Mars One are making huge steps for a much darker space mission, with the goal to not only visit, but colonize the planet in less than 10 years time. The catch? The trip is exclusively one way.
Currently collecting applicants to become Mars’ first residents, the venture is also set to also be transformed into a Truman Show-style reality TV program. They predict to reach the planet in 2023.
With over 8,000 potentials (aged from 20-40) from all over the world applying, the eventual process will only see four succeed, with their life-changing move set to be filmed before our very eyes. Using space transport services SpaceX, the estimated cost for travel reportedly summing up to six billion. And you thought the London Underground was costly.
According to Mars One’s website, if the mission were to succeed, astronauts would be assisting in the research for future colonization plans, as well as experiencing the leisurely activities of earth-life – such as TV being able to be uploaded on to a Mars ‘server’, so nobody misses their next Game of Thrones installment.
Mars One may be ambitious, but could be paving the way for morbid consequences, with many skeptics ridiculing the plans, from both Wired Magazine and astronaut Buzz Aldrin questioning the project’s plausibility. Even project leader Bas Landsorp has been very clear on the ‘one-way’ element of the ticket, explaining that humans may have the ability to live on Mars, but will also have to die on the red planet too.
Speaking to Gawker in 2013, the researcher admitted: “The technology to get humans to Mars and keep them alive there exists," however "the technology to bring humans from Mars back to Earth simply does not exist yet."
Maybe we’ll just stick to I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here...
Earlier in 2014, scientists found themselves looking back rather than forwards to uncover some of Mars' mysteries.
In 1911, a meteorite named Nakhla, curiously crash-landed in the Abu Hommos district of Egypt, resulting in a bang that could be heard all across the Earth. The meteorite contained familiar markings to those on Earth that would be caused bacteria. As such, this fragment from the stars has been under scrutinous study for over 100 years.
Over this century, every decade, and every moment under a new scientist's gaze offered up new speculation from Mars, where the meteor supposedly came from in the first place. As the first of its kind, future rocks from Mars were henceforth named nakhlites. However, the original itself still uncovers new revelations.
In 1999, one particularly exciting development found that Nakhla contained amino acids, a compound containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Now, in 2014, new studies have found evidence of clay by using x-ray technology inside the meteorite, which showed even clearer evidence that Mars has numerous substances essential for housing life. The results, concluded from the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, mean that Mars could be harboring far more minerals that relate to Earth than ever imagined.
Much like you would find in Star Wars, Mars rovers are automated vehicles that pillage the red planet's surface looking for evidence of life. The machines have been sent up to space since the early 1970s, however didn't successfully land until decades later in 1997.
As of today, the Curiosity Rover, a NASA-bred vehicle which has been roaming the planet since 2011, still is in communication, always on the look out for glimmers of life forces. And for the past couple of years, its been rather busy, discovering that by drilling through Mars' rock, the planet once had the conditions to breed microbial life (aka: single living organisms.)
As the Curiosity Rover continues its mission, having also found evidence of water, carbon dioxide, and even oxygen, NASA continue to develop a new type of Rover to find out even more - called the Mars 2020 mission, set for, you guessed it, a launch in 2020. The mission endeavours to discover if we can bring home the findings from Mars, and even use the properties of the planet's surface for our very own fuels. Only time will tell...
Although the technology is thriving every day to actually ‘get’ to Mars, the question remains: what will we do when we actually arrive? According to Virgin founder Richard Branson; put up our feet and relax.
"In my lifetime, I'm determined to be a part of starting a population on Mars. I think its absolutely realistic. It will happen” he said last year.
Alongside NASA, the space tourism program Virgin Galactic has taken leaps and bounds to achieve what once seemed impossible. With test-flights from transport prototype SpaceShip Two showing huge promise, Branson is already looking to the future of this intergalactic experience, wanting to build space hotels for its visitors.
"If we can get enough people wanting to fly it then we can start building Virgin hotels in space, we can start doing trips to Mars."