In a previous post, I outlined a proposed mission profile for, and some of the realities involved in, a one-way manned mission to Mars: rovers and robots would establish a base camp before the crew arrived. The astronauts would receive continuous shipments of supplies form Earth, but would have to rely on onsite greenhouses for the majority of their food and oxygen. Like I said, the proposal is a radical one; the astronauts would have no means to return home at any point throughout the mission. But they would be the first step in a long-term plan to develop a human outpost on the red planet.
The proposed mission itself is, I think, difficult to justify. More difficult, however, are the realities of living on an inhospitable planet for the rest of your life. In the case of Mars, would it be easier to alter the planet to make it fit for human habitation instead of bringing a habitat in tow? What should come first, terraforming or inhabiting? (Previous image: Terra Nova by David A. Hardy depicts a terraformed Mars rise as seen from one of its moons.) [Read more...]