'No return' flights to Mars are many times cheaper – and volunteers are lining up.
Humans could be walking on Mars within the next couple decades, for only a fraction of the cost the United States has already budgeted for space exploration.
How? The answer is simple, say a pair of Mars researchers: Give the explorers a one-way ticket.
The most costly and tricky part of any manned space mission is providing life-support for its human crew: food, oxygen, and protection from radiation and other hazards of space travel. On a human mission to Mars, most of the cost – some 80 percent of it – would involve returning the crew to Earth, say Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies in the October-November issue of the Journal of Cosmology. Rather than quintuple the cost, those funds could go toward building a permanent settlement, the two scientists argue.
They propose that, after several unmanned missions drop supplies at a base station on the Red Planet, two spacecraft carrying two humans each would be sent on the six- to eight-month voyage to Mars to begin the first human colony on another planet.
Further missions would continue to supply the first settlers, who would be older, beyond child-bearing age, and – of course – volunteers.
Eventually, as the colonists made more use of Mars' own resources, including water trapped as ice, they would be joined by more migrants from Earth.
"It's not a suicide mission at all," argues Dr. Schulze-Makuch, coauthor of the paper and an associate professor at the school of earth and environmental sciences at Washington State University in Pullman.
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