MIT Students Suck the Oxygen Out of People’s Dreams to Live on Mars
Earth to people who want to live on Mars: you’ll probably die 68 days after landing on your new home planet, according to students from MIT.
A new “independent study” published by Sydney Do, a graduate research assistant and doctoral candidate at the school’s Aeronautics and Astronautics department, and several other student researchers, is calling the “Mars One” project, a plan to colonize the red rock floating in our solar system by the year 2025, a bunch of hot air—for now.
“While there is some reference to existing technology within the Mars One mission plan, a survey of the current state of the art [equipment] indicates that many of the technologies that would likely be employed on such a mission are not currently ready for deployment,” according to the research paper.
Furthermore, through conducting habitation simulations based on information provided on the Mars One website, students concluded that, “the first crew fatality would occur approximately 68 days” after landing due to “suffocation” within the compounds proposed by the people spearheading the mission. The student researchers said this would occur because of the idea to grow crops in the same area that astronauts would call home.
“Some form of oxygen removal system is required—a technology that has not yet been developed for spaceflight,” the study said, citing the need to balance the oxygen and nitrogen levels accordingly.
Mars One was first announced in 2012 by a non-profit group in the Netherlands, and promised prospective inhabitants looking to occupy the planet a one-way trip to outer space to help spur a new colony. More than 200,000 people have expressed interest in being part of the mission since then.
According to those behind the ambitious proposal, “Mars One will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars,” shipping off a crew of four people by 2024 to start a new sustainable civilization on the planet’s surface, and send additional recruits to Mars every two years after that.
Do and his fellow researchers can see why that idea would be appealing—it’s something they study regularly—but they’re still adamant that the technology isn’t quite there yet, considering the mission’s launch date is just years away.
“We have great respect for the enthusiasm for space exploration that the Mars One program has generated and our goal is not to detract from this, but rather to drive it forward towards enabling affordable, sustainable Mars colonization,” the group said in a letter posted on their website.
Here are a few key key points made in the 35-page independent study showing why the student scientists believe the conceptual goals of the space mission might need to take a backseat for the time being:
Growing local won’t fly on Mars:
“If all food is sourced from plants, excessive oxygen will need to be managed. While there is technology available on Earth to handle this, no such technology has been developed for spaceflight. This issue is removed if food is transported from Earth rather than grown locally,” the group said.
Getting the first four people there is a budget breaker:
“The space logistics analysis revealed that for the most optimist scenario considered, establishing the first crew of a Mars settlement will require approximately 15 Falcon Heavy launches costing $4.5 billion, and these values will grow with additional crews,” they said.
Bringing additional parts to space is also costly:
“The cost of the Mars One mission increases over time due to the increasing spares requirement —as the colony grows, more systems are required, in turn necessitating more spare parts and therefore more rocket launches,” they said.
You can read their report in its entirety below: