A Chinese rover visiting a U.S. settlement on Mars (Photo : 4Frontiers Corp.)
Part I - Humans On Mars: When Will We Arrive, 2021, 2023, 2040 or 2060?
Part II - Humans On Mars 2: Utilizing Mars' Natural Resources
Part III - Humans on Mars 3: Mars Race Sped Up by Private Sector but Delayed by Governments
After a relative lull in space exploration, humans are once again excited about what lies beyond planet Earth thanks to the recent NASA Mars Curiosity rover mission. So far, the rover mission has been a success, even launching a flight director to internet meme fame.
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But now that man has gotten a machine on the Red Planet, everybody's wondering: When will humans settle Mars?
Getting humans to Mars has always been a fascination for man. As early as 1952, German-American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun proposed a Mars mission involving ferrying humans to Mars aboard spacecrafts. This is even before man had set foot on the moon.
Fast forward 60 years and man makes significant progress in setting foot on Mars with landing rovers and tethering satellites to the planet, but a manned Mars mission is still far away.
The United States has expressed interest in a manned Mars mission, scrapping a manned moon mission in 2020 for missions to an asteroid in 2025 and Mars by the 2030's.
Barack Obama on Landing on Mars
"By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it," President Barack Obama even stated.
But recently, the lack of government funds has allowed the private sector to step in and play a bigger role in space exploration. SpaceX, a company headed by Elon Musk, recently successfully completed a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. It won't be long before every private company's eyes are locked on the biggest prize in space: Mars.
Mars Landing Predictions: 2021, 2023, 2040 or 2060?
4Frontiers Corporation, based in Florida, is just such a company. The company Vice President Joseph Palaia, a former Masters student at MIT, had stated in an article dating back to 2006 that he believed humans would be settled on Mars as early as 2021 - that's only nine years from now.
"Since when that article originally came out, I stopped telling people a date when I thought humans would settle Mars. There are simply too many variables involved. My view is that it will happen within my lifetime, and I will do everything I can to make it happen sooner rather than later," Palaia replied in an email to LatinosPost.
The year 2021 might seem a little early to be envisioning humans living on Mars, but in reality, it might not be that far off based off many people's expectations.
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp started a program named "Mars One" which aims to have people on Mars by 2023. The first satellite would be launched in 2016, and by the year 2033, Mars One hopes to have over 20 people living and working on Mars.
Back in the early 2000's, the European Space Agency proposed a long-term goal of a manned mission to Mars by 2033.
China is a bit more skeptical, stating that their space program hopes to send talkonauts to Mars sometime between 2040 and 2060.
Russia, the European Union, and China undertook the Mars-500 mission, which was a 520-day isolation psychological test designed to simulate a journey to Mars. Three different crews completed the 520 days program from 2007-2011.
An actual specific date for a manned mission to Mars is hard to pin down. Settling Mars will take even longer - although some have proposed a one-way trip to Mars since taking off from Mars will be the hardest part of a round trip. Refueling, repairs, and other preparations for such a long journey will be incredibly tough without an established space center for resources and human capital. Space activist Bruce Mackenzie proposed that humans might instead consider a one-way trip in his paper, "One Way to Mars / a Permanent Settlement on the First Mission," back in 1998.
Mars Exploration Popularity on the Rise
One thing is for certain, interest in space exploration has been revitalized thanks to NASA's Mars Curiosity mission. It doesn't mean that humans will suddenly be planting tomatoes on Mars, in fact, life-support and transportation technologies for that scale of settlement still need to be developed. But awareness is the first step towards any goal, and companies are thinking of interesting ways to get public momentum.
4Frontiers Corporation is planning a Mars-themed amusement park in Titusville, Fl., named INTERSPACE, in hopes of showing visitors what life on Mars could really be like. The Mars One mission hopes to raise funds through licensing its mission out as a reality show.
In the end, human romanticism more than anything might be the key to getting to Mars fast.
As Palaia told us:
"Mars is a challenge which will serve as a focus for human energy. Our pursuit of a settlement on Mars will bring out the best aspects of humanity. Societies are very much like chemical equations... they need a driving force in order to make any progress. The challenge of getting humans to Mars can be one of those driving forces. Besides, it is much more optimistic to believe that we will live in a world where human beings are exploring and expanding knowledge than one where we simply turn inwards... leading to stagnation and decay."
View a video from 4Frontiers Corporation about settling Mars:
>> Mars One