Goodbye earth I am moving to mars

A trip is always fun. But what if you are never coming back?


In what is touted as a “giant leap for humankind”, a Dutch non-profit company called Mars One is planning to send the first group of humans to colonize Mars by 2027. This is exciting because the crew do not all have to be scientists with PhDs in astrophysics, but they do have to fit the profile of an astronaut — be resilient, adaptable, curious, resourceful and be ready to never see earth again! Yes, that’s right — this is a one-way mission to Mars, designed to establish the first human colony outside Earth!

But who would be ready to leave everything behind and settle on an alien planet? More than 2,00,000 people, it turned out. Of these, a hundred were shortlisted in February this year, and among them were three Indians. This crew will undergo some intensive training and by 2027, will be sent in groups of four to establish a permanent settlement on Mars. What are these people thinking? Find out in this imaginary conversation:

“Congratulations! I hear you’re about to take off on a one-way trip to Mars!”

“Yes! Is that exciting or what!”

“Well, a roller coaster ride is exciting, scuba diving is exciting, bungee jumping too — but a trip to Mars would be exciting raised to the power of the biggest number you can think of!”

“People think I’m insane to do it.”

“Why wouldn’t they? And it’s not as if you care — after all, you are going on a one-way mission, which means you are never going to see these people again.”

“Hmmm.”

“Tell me, why did they decide on a one-way trip? Why not bring you all back?”

“A one-way trip is far less complex. If you want to return, you would have to take with you a launcher that can take off from Mars, and this means building a bigger and more complex rocket. We don’t have the technology for this. But we do have technology that will take us to Mars, and once there, we can establish settlements for future astronauts.”

“What about NASA? Is NASA involved in this?”

“We are taking help and technology advice from a number of space agencies, including NASA. But this is the idea of a Dutch company called Mars-One (started by Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders), and we are being trained by them. It is possible that we will be there to welcome future NASA crews!”

“What is your training like?”

Jack of all trades

“That’s the most interesting bit! Each one of us has to learn everything! If something stops working we need to know how to fix it. You can’t call a technician on Mars, because there isn’t one! You have to be the technician, scientist, pilot, plumber, cook, farmer, doctor, geologist, biologist, philosopher and friend. But first of all, you need to be able to spend seven to eight months cooped up with your team in a tiny spacecraft, because that is how long it will take to reach Mars.”

“And how long is your training going to be?”

“The first launch of humans is in 2027, and proper training begins next year, so that’s 10 years!”

“That is one LONG training!”

“Perhaps yes, but this for a whole new life! This is not a vacation. I aim to be the first human to settle on an alien planet and pave the way for future generations to live there. Just like how robots will prepare Mars for us when we arrive.”

“You’re going to have robot helpers? So cool!”

“Sure, the plan is to send a series of unmanned spacecraft starting from 2020. The first will be a demonstration to test the feasibility of the entire mission — we can figure out how long it will take to reach, whether it will land safely, and once it lands, will it be able to communicate without trouble… An outpost will be created. An intelligent rover will be sent to prepare the surface for future launches. Communications satellites with be in orbit around Mars. Solar panels will be installed. If all goes well, in 2024, six living units and life support units containing water and oxygen will be launched. And finally, I’ll go and settle in one of those living units!”

“What happens when you run out of water and oxygen?”

“That’s what the rover is for! It analyses the soil and selects the spot with the best water content. Our life support units can extract water from the Martian soil, which will be enough because we will also recycle the water. As for oxygen, this will be extracted from the water!”

“What about food?”

“We will carry some storable food, but that is only for emergency. Food will be grown under artificial lighting inside an enclosed dome. Carbon dioxide will be taken from the Martian atmosphere, and water from the Martian soil. Plant nutrients can be imported from Earth, or we could just use our faeces.”

“You would have to live indoors all the time, right?”

“Yes, that’s one thing that might be difficult. If we have to step out of the living units, it will be with a spacesuit on, so even that is kind of indoors.”

“So what will you do all day?”

“Three things — construction, maintenance, and research, all aimed at preparing the planet for more humans to arrive. I’m told we can also read, play, watch TV, and even browse the internet! There will be a minimum three minute-delay for messages to pass to and from Earth, so talking to people back home won’t be easy.”

“Will you miss Earth?”

“That’s a tough one… I think the question is, will you all miss Earth? When you watch pollution and wars destroy our home… When you watch the last few endangered animals die… When your children’s children cannot step out of the home without a gas mask … I’m happy to pave the way for a new future for them, and so, good bye Earth, forever.”

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