Red is Green

Red is Green

Analysis of powdered samples drilled at the rover’s Gale crater landing site show clays,sulfates and other minerals that are all key to life.

Seven months after NASA’ s rover Curiosity landed on Mars to assess if the planet most like Earth had the ingredients for life,scientists have their answer: Yes. Analysis of powdered samples drilled at the rover’s Gale crater landing site show clays,sulfates and other minerals that are all key to life.

Life on Mars has been a long-cherished dream of space enthusiasts,lovers of science fiction and ultimate romantics; but now it seems that some people have come up with ambitious—and some say realistic—plans to send human beings to Mars in just about five,give or take a few,years’ time.

Inspiration Mars Foundation

This non-profit charity set up by US millionaire Dennis Tito,the world’s first private space tourist,plans to send a married couple to Mars in 2018. The couple will leave Earth in January of that year,orbit Mars at an altitude of 160 km in August,and then return home.

The journey will last 501 days; the longest continuous time ever spent in space which will result in astronauts being bombarded by solar radiation,increasing their risk of cancer by 3 per cent.


The couple will eat rehydrated food,breathe recycled air,and drink recycled water—water reclaimed from urine and poop. Reclaiming water from poop still leaves solid waste though,and speaking to New Scientist,Inspiration Mars’s Taber MacCallum said they will place it in bags and stash these against the inner wall of the spacecraft to act as a radiation shield.

Tito will initially fund the project himself—after which it is hoped that donations,television rights,and advertising possibilities will pay for it.

The current plan is to use a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the launch. The mission will also use what’s known as a free-return trajectory—a special trajectory that is only available twice every 15 years,where the gravitational fields from the planets perfectly align for a quick and cheap flight to Mars and back.

This mission does not have much scientific significance. Instead,it aims for a better understanding of how humans will cope with long spaceflights that colonisation of other planets will require.

SPACEX Mars mission

The commercial space travel company is planning to send humans to Mars by roughly 2025. According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk,the “average person” will be able to afford the round trip costing “only $500,000”—in all fairness,it is a trip to another planet.

Musk has admitted that the key to the budget-rate plan to get to Mars was reusability and refuelling. “The whole system (must be) reusable… nothing thrown away… then you’ re just down to the cost of the propellant,” he told BBC. The SpaceX rockets will be powered by methane,which can be manufactured on the Red Planet.

The CEO’ s publicly stated final goal for the SpaceX’s Dragon space capsule is colonisation of Mars. He wants to see thousands,preferably millions,of people living there in the near future. A transparent dome is planned,which would be pressurised so that Martian pioneers could farm on Martian soil.

Mars One

When Bas Lansdorp,a 36-year-old Dutch engineer and entrepreneur,began dreaming more than a decade ago about establishing the first permanent human colony on Mars,his primary focus was not on overcoming the technological challenges. It was the business model.

Lansdorp is neither as well known as Dennis Tito nor has as deep pockets as Elon Musk. But Lansorp is convinced he has found the perfect plan to raise the $6 billion he says he needs to land an initial crew of four people on the Martian surface by 2023. The entire mission—from the astronauts’ selection and training to their arrival and construction of a permanent settlement—would be broadcast as a worldwide,multi-year reality television show.

Until this year,the project was financed almost entirely by Lansdorp himself. Last month,he secured his first commitments from outside investors.


With just 10 years to select and prepare its first crew,the project,called Mars One,expects to begin recruiting prospective astronauts online this spring. Applicants must be at least 18 years old,be physically fit and speak English,and they must be willing to live out the final selection process and an eight-year training programme—not to mention the Mars mission itself—under the constant stare of a television camera. No specific technical skills or experience are required,but be sure to read the fine print: For reasons of cost and logistics,this is a one-way trip.