Frequently Asked Questions
The trip to Mars cannot be called risk free. Like any venture in any means of travel, there are always things that could go wrong. In the case of Mars One, the following risks are conceivable:
- Accident(s) during launch
- Vital components could malfunction during the journey there
- A number of issues might present themselves when entering Mars' atmosphere
- There could be problems when landing
Mars One will take every possible precaution to make sure the mission is as safe as can be:
- The rocket will be tested unmanned dozens of times before the astronauts so much as see it.
- Mars One uses technology that has been operating on the International Space Station for years, and have already planned for important components to be meticulously tested before use.
- By the time the astronauts start their journey, the process of entering Mars' atmosphere will already have been performed several times by unmanned capsules.
Although traveling to Mars will evidently bring risks, if you were to compare our mission to the first Moon mission in 1969, it quickly becomes apparent that this mission is much safer. At the time of Apollo 11, there was a great deal of pressure to rush proceedings, and was therefore never properly tested. For example, the lunar lander hadn't even been tested once.
Living on Mars cannot be considered entirely risk-free, in particular during the first few years. There are a number of elements that could pose a problem:
- An essential component of the settlement could be affected
- There is a chance that an astronaut might not survive if his or her Mars Suit were to become seriously damaged during a mission outside of the habitat
- Certain medical conditions are not treatable on Mars
Obviously, Mars One will extensively examine and trial-run all elements of the mission beforehand to pre-empt any mishaps – especially the settlement's critical parts.
Living on Mars is comparable to getting by on i.e. Antarctica, and provides similar challenges. However, the South Pole now has a number of very advanced, large research stations that boast a great deal of modern facilities that provide a good quality of life. On Mars this development still has to be kick started.
The trip takes around seven months; a bit longer than astronauts currently stay on the International Space Station.
The precise duration of each journey depends on when it is taken. Because both Mars and Earth's orbits are not perfectly circular, the time it takes to travel between them varies from six to eight months.
How to determine the dates of departure and arrival
The exact dates and years in which Mars One plans to execute the various stages of the plan were chosen for the beneficial astronomical position of Earth and Mars. When determining the course to Mars, the maximum travel time for the astronauts is very important.
The most efficient route to take from Earth’s orbit to that of Mars is called the ‘Hohmann Transfer Orbit’ (see: illustration). The illustration shows a simplification of the process, as both Earth and Mars’ orbits are not perfect circles.
Why did Columbus travel west? Why did Marco Polo head east? Because it is that pull, that unknown, that prospect of adventure that compels humans to seek new frontiers to explore.
There are a number of reasons to travel to Mars.
The first is the realization of an amazing dream! Sending a manned mission to Mars is a fantastic adventure. Imagine living on another planet, millions of miles from the Earth; looking up into the sky with the knowledge that one of the 'stars' is actually the planet you were born on. Who can even envision the incredible feeling of being the first human in history to step out of the capsule and leave your footprint on the surface of Mars? By this we implore you to not just think of that feeling for the astronaut, but the experience for all those watching back home. Those who observed Neil Armstrong land on the Moon all those years ago still remember every detail – where they were, who they were with and how they felt. The moment the first astronauts land on Mars will be our moment to remember.
A second reason is good, old-fashioned curiosity. Where did Mars come from? Can it teach us about Earth's history? Is there life on Mars? These are just three of the hundreds of burning questions for scientists all over the world.
Thirdly: progress. You could say that sending people to Mars is 'the next giant leap for mankind'. This mission will jumpstart massive developments in all kinds of areas, a few examples being in recycling, solar energy, food production and the advancement of medical technology.
During their working hours, our astronauts will be busy performing three main tasks: construction, maintenance and research. Besides work, they will also have time to relax.
Construction involves working on the settlement. The first crew in particular will need to devote a lot of time to the settlement, to make their new home into a comfortable place to live. They will install the corridors between the landers, they will deploy extra solar panels, and they will install equipment, such as greenhouses, inside the habitat. They will spend time on the crops and food preparation. They will also prepare the hardware for the second crew: the second crew hardware will be delivered with the first crew astronauts.
As soon as possible, Mars One will try to supply the settlement with methodologies to produce habitable volume from mostly Martian materials, in order to significantly expand the settlement. Our goal is to enable them to construct a space 10 meters wide by 50 meters long. This will be a spacious environment in which to live, where they can also grow trees. Such a large living volume will make Mars a much nicer place to live.
Maintenance will be crucial to ensure long-term functionality of all systems. The astronauts lives depend on the technology present in the settlement. All these systems need to be checked and maintained regularly.
Research is also an important part of work on Mars, especially when the settlement is fully operational. What is the history of Mars? Did Mars have a long wet period, or just a few wet years every now and then? When did the dramatic climate change take place? Is there life on Mars now? The astronauts will do their own research, but will also collect data for other researchers, and transmit it to Earth.
Leisure and personal time
Our astronauts will also find time to relax. They can do most of the indoor activities that people can do on Earth: read, play games, write, paint, work out in the gym, watch TV, use the Internet, contact friends at home and so on.
There will be some communication and media limitations, due to the distance between Earth and Mars, resulting in time delays: they will have to request the movies or news broadcasts they want to see in advance. If an astronaut would like to watch the Super Bowl, he or she can request it, and it would be uploaded to the server on Mars. There will always be a time delay of at least three minutes, so the people on Mars will know who won a few minutes after the people on Earth. Hopefully this slight delay will not spoil their enjoyment of our ‘Earth sports’.
Easy Internet access will be limited to their preferred sites that are constantly updated on the local Mars web server. Other websites will take between 6 and 45 minutes to appear on their screen - first 3-22 minutes for your click to reach Earth, and then another 3-22 minutes for the website data to reach Mars. Contacting friends at home is possible by video, voice or text message (e-mail, WhatsApp, sms), but real time dialogue is not possible, because of the time delay.
Mars One will advise the first settlement inhabitants not to attempt to have children because:
- In the first years, the Mars settlement is not a suitable place for children to live. The medical facilities will be limited and the group is too small.
- The human ability to conceive in reduced gravity is not known, neither is there enough research on whether a fetus can grow normally under these circumstances.
In order to establish a true settlement on Mars, Mars One recognises having children is vital. Therefore this will be an important point of research.
We want to emphasize a number of issues:
- A ‘one way’ trip (or, in other words: emigration) to Mars is currently the only way we can get people on Mars within the next 20 years. This in no way excludes the possibility of a return flight at some point in the future. It is likely that technological progress will make this less complex down the line, not to mention the fact that once the planet is inhabited, it will be that much easier to build the returning rocket there. This means that in time it could be possible for astronauts to return to Earth at some point in the future, should they want to do so;
- Mars One will take every possible precaution to ensure the journey to Mars will be as safe as can be;
- All those emigrating will do so because they choose to. They will receive extensive preparatory training so that they fully know what to expect. Astronauts that have passed the selection process can always choose not to join the mission at any time, and at any point during preparations. Back-up teams will be ready to replace any crew member that drops out, even at the very last minute.
- Our first and foremost priority is to offer the people on Mars as high a quality of life as we can, which encompasses the following:
- Unlimited access to email and other communication channels to keep in touch with friends and family back on Earth;
- As many exploration and experimentation opportunities as are available;
- The means to build and develop as much as they can themselves. They can work on the expansion of their Mars base and use the new rooms as they wish.
- Our second priority is to have at least four people emigrate every two years, so that the community continues to grow.
Despite all of the above, it still sounds rather extreme nowadays to only offer a one way trip, but it bears mentioning that thousands of Europeans agreed to do just that – they took all they owned and moved to Australia, for example. That agreement did not come with a return ticket. The boat went back, but that did not mean they could afford to go with it. Maybe they could buy another ticket after saving up for a few years – just like our astronauts could build a rocket after some time.
The emigrants of the 60s could never have imagined that, 30 years later, they would be able to fly back to Europe for a small amount. Perhaps, at some point, a trip to Mars will become just as commonplace.
Considering all of the above, we do indeed think it is ethically conscientious to allow people to emigrate to Mars.
Findings by an instrument aboard the Mars transit vehicle that carried the Curiosity rover show that radiation exposure for a mission of permanent settlement will be well within space agencies' astronaut career limits.
Radiation on the way to Mars
A studypublished in the journal Science in May 2013 calculates 662 +/ 108 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation exposure for a 360 day return trip, as measured by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). The study shows that ninety five percent of the radiation received by the RAD instrument came from Galactic Cosmic Rays or GCRs, which are hard to shield against without use of prohibitive shielding mass (1).
The 210-day journey Mars One settlers will take, amounts to radiation exposure of 386 +/- 63 mSv, considering these recent measurements as standard. This exposure is below the upper limits of accepted standards for an astronaut career: European Space Agency, Russian Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency limit is 1000 mSv; NASA limits are between 600-1200mSv, depending on sex and age (1).
Mars transit habitat radiation shelter
On the way to Mars, the crew will be protected from solar particles by the structure of the spacecraft. The crew will receive general protection of 10-15 g/cm2 shielding from the structure of the Mars transit vehicle. In case of a solar flare or Solar Particle Event (SPE), this shielding will not suffice and the crew will retreat to a dedicated radiation shelter in Mars Transit habitat, taking their cue from the onboard radiation monitoring and alert system. The water tanks and other storage will be used to create this dedicated radiation shelter that will also function as crew sleeping quarters. The radiation shelter located in the hollow water tank, will provide additional shielding to the level of 40 g/cm2. The astronauts shouldexpect one SPE every two months on average and a total of three or four during their entire trip, with each one usually lasting not more than a couple of days.
Radiation on Mars
Mars's surface receives more radiation than the Earth's but still blocks a considerable amount. Radiation exposure on the surface is 30 µSv per hour during solar minimum; during solar maximum, dosage equivalent of this exposure is reduced by the factor two (2).
If the settlers spend on average three hours every three days outside the habitat, their individual exposure adds up to 11 mSv per year.
The Mars One habitat will be covered by several meters of soil, which provides reliable shielding even against galactic cosmic rays. Five meters of soil will provide the same protection as the Earth's atmosphere-- equivalent to 1,000 g/cm2 of shielding.
With the help of a forecasting system, taking shelter in the habitat can prevent radiation exposure from SPEs.
Total radiation exposure
The 210-day trip results in radiation exposure of the crew of 386 +/- 61 mSv. On the surface, they will be exposed to about 11 mSv per year during their excursions on the surface of Mars. This means that the settlers will be able to spend about sixty years on Mars before reaching their career limit, with respect to ESA standards.
The astronaut crews that go to Mars will be diverse in gender, cultural background, and age. This is intentional. The diversity will help each team bring greater resources to solving problems. NASA studies performed by Mars One's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norbert Kraft compared all male, all female and 50% mixed gender groups. The results showed that mixed gender groups (50/50 male female) performed better. The diversity also reflects humanity. On any number of levels, the settlers will arrive on Mars with different worldviews. Yet they will have trained together for the decade needed to learn survival skills for inhabiting a hostile planet. This gives them ample time to come to grips with their dissimilar backgrounds, mine the benefits they find in those variations, and figure out where generational and other differences might threaten the team.
In Mars One's book "Mars One: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure" readers can learn more about what combination of genders and ages make for the most effective four-person crew, and how individual cultural backgrounds factor in.
It is currently not possible to apply. The closing date of this first online astronaut application round was 31 August 2013.
Mars One will start new selection programs regularly, so you will have the possibility to apply for subsequent astronaut selection programs.
If you want to stay up to date, you can sign up for the Mars One Newsletter, and receive all Mars One updates.
Mars One will conduct a global search to find the best candidates for the first human mission to Mars. The combined skill set of each astronaut team member must cover a very wide range of disciplines. The astronauts must be intelligent, creative, psychologically stable and physically healthy. On this page, Mars One offers a brief introduction to the basics of our astronaut selection process.
The astronaut selection process
In spaceflight missions, the primary personal attributes of a successful astronaut are emotional and psychological stability, supported by personal drive and motivation. This is the foundation upon a mission must be built, where human lives are at risk with each flight.
Once on Mars, there are no means to return to Earth. Mars is home. A grounded, deep sense of purpose will help each astronaut maintain his or her psychological stability and focus as they work together toward a shared and better future.
Mars One cannot stress enough the importance of an applicant’s capacity for self-reflection.
The astronaut selection program will be open for applicants who are 18 years or older. This is the age by which children become legal adults in most countries in the world. Mars One believes it is important that applicants who enter the astronaut selection program are capable of entering into a legal contract without the supervision of others.
There is not an upper age limit to apply for the astronaut selection program. If the applicant enjoys good health and he or she has all the other characteristics needed for the mission he or she has what it takes to apply.
Medical and Physical Requirements
In general, normal medical and physiological health standards will be used. These standards are derived from evidence-based medicine, verified from clinical studies.
- The applicant must be free from any disease, any dependency on drugs, alcohol or tobacco;
- Normal range of motion and functionality in all joints;
- Visual acuity in both eyes of 100% (20/20) either uncorrected or corrected with lenses or contact lenses;
- Free from any psychiatric disorders;
- It is important to be healthy, with an age- and gender-adequate fitness level;
- Blood pressure should not exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position;
- The standing height must be between 157 and 190 cm.
Country of Origin & Language
Mars One accepts applicants from any country in the world.
The official language, will be English. It is possible however, to enter the selection program without an extensive knowledge of English. Applicants can apply in one of the 11 most used languages on Internet: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese. As applicants progress through the selection procedure, requirements on their English skills will increase. For the second round of the selection program, selected applicants will meet a Mars One selection committee for an interview. For this interview, A2 English level (elementary) will be essential. Please check CEFR to get a good sense of what language abilities are expected.
The selection process is made up of four rounds.
- During the initial round all candidates must submit an online application that consists of general information about the applicant, a motivation letter, a resume and a one minute video that answers provided questions and explains their reasoning.
- Candidates making it to the second round are required to obtain a medical statement of good health from their physician and will be invited for an individual video interview with Mars One.
- During the third round candidates will participate in group challenges.
- In the final selection round, international groups of four candidates will be placed in isolation to face multiple challenges. An individual in-depth Mars Settler Suitability Interview (MSSI) is also part of the final selection round.
The decision of selecting the applicants that will pass to Round 2 will lie solely with the Mars One selection committee and will be based on the quality of the applicant according to this criteria.
An audience vote will be crucial in later stages of the application program when all applicants in the running have been selected by experts (in subsequent selection rounds) or fully trained (in the decisive audience vote before the launch).
All communication between Mars and Earth goes through satellites. Because of the distance, there is a substantial delay. As communication signals travel at the speed of light, this means that it can take between 3 and 22 minutes for the information to reach the other end, so a phone call would not be practical. Fortunately, there would be no limitations to email, texting or 'WhatsApping' with the Mars residents. It'll just take at least 6 minutes for you to get your reply. Both voicemail and video messages are also easily workable options.
The astronauts can use the Internet, but can only surf 'real time' on a number of websites that are downloaded from Earth on the Mars habitat webserver. Every astronaut will have access to his favorite websites that way. Visiting other websites will be a bit impractical because of the delay.
The settlement will be broadcasting images of daily life back to Earth so that everyone can see what the astronauts are up to.
We are receiving many suggestions to make use of advanced technologies like nuclear propulsion and terraforming.
Mars One is not an aerospace company and will not design or manufacture mission hardware. Mars One is only considering technologies that can be purchased from existing suppliers. When new technologies become available, Mars One will consider the applicability of the technology for our plans, but only when the technology is proven and ready to use.
For more information about the technology, also read the following sections:
The first mission to Mars will be a demonstration mission. This lander mission will provide proof of concepts of some important technologies. In the event of any problems with the deployment of the lander on this first mission, the only risk will be to the payload, and to the lander itself.
Any lesson learned from the demonstration mission will be used to perfect the lander deployment process, and minimize risk to the high-value Mars rover during a following mission. For more information about Mars One's mission schedule, please go to the Roadmap.