CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CBS Tampa) – A private mission to Mars may turn out to be mission impossible.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology students analyzed the plans made by the Netherlands-based Mars One to send four people on a one-say trip to the Red Planet as the first pioneers to colonize a new world.
“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” wrote study co-author Olivier de Weck, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT. “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made. We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”
The study aims to find ways to help the ambitious project by highlighting the problems that must be overcome if it is to achieve its goal of starting a colony by 2025.
For example, Mars One proposes to provide drinking water for the colony by baking Martian soil, which scientific probes have discovered contain water ice. But the technology needed is not yet ready for a space mission, warn the study authors.
The blueprints of the proposed colony call for growing crops within the settlers’ habitats. But the analysis shows that the plants would actually produce more oxygen than required for human’s to breathe. While that doesn’t sound like a big problem, the extra oxygen would increase the risk of a devastating fire.
“We found carrying food is always cheaper than growing it locally,” explained lead author Sydney Do, an MIT grad student. “On Mars, you need lighting and watering systems, and for lighting, we found it requires 875 LED systems, which fail over time. So you need to provide spare parts for that, making the initial system heavier.”
The students also figured that Mars One would need to launch a tremendous amount of spare parts to the colony. Resupply missions would only be able to blast off every 26 months because of the way the orbits of Earth and Mars line up.
The study concluded that sending the material to Mars before the first settlers arrive would need 15 launches of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket instead of the planned six.
That could push the estimated $7 billion price tag even higher.
But that’s all par for the course, insist the Mars One organizers.
“The mission design has been discussed with engineering teams from aerospace companies like Paragon Space Development and Lockheed Martin,” Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp told Space.com. “These engineers have actually been building these systems, and each team we talked to is leading in the world. Our current mission design is the result of our own studies and their feedback, and we are very confident that our budgets, timelines and requirements are feasible.”
Mars One officials claim 200,000 people have signed up for the seven year training program intended to select the four lucky colonists.
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