Colonising Mars for real

I had fun writing a science fiction series about the colonisation of Mars, but some people are really thinking of putting in place such a project in just ten years.

I’m talking about Mars One, the foundation led by Bas Lansdorp, which completed the application stage for the selection of possible future inhabitants of the Red Planet a few months ago.
Mars Initiative, the non-profit association of which I’m an Italian representative, is keeping an eye on Mars One. The purpose of Mars Initiative is to raise funds to be delivered to first project that will bring humans on Mars and, at least from its premises, Mars One seems to be the closest to realisation, if only for the fact that it identifies year 2023 as landing date of the first settlers, that is about ten years earlier than, for example, the smoky intentions of NASA.
But let’s see first of all what it is.

Mars One expects to select, among all those who have applied, the astronauts that will be sent in the number of four every two years starting from 2022. Obviously these will be first subjected to a lengthy training. Between 2016 and 2021 satellites, rovers and habitats will be sent, ready to receive the first four settlers. In 2033 twenty persons will be already living on Mars.
The idea of Mars One, beyond the technical problems still to be solved, is quite simple and its simplicity is guaranteed by the absence of a return trip, which reduces costs and gives the entire project a greater charm. We talk, in fact, of populating a new planet other than Earth. The historical, technological and scientific implications are immense.

But how much is such a venture feasible from the human point of view?
The two men and two women sent to Mars will surely be well selected and well trained, but it is not really possible to prepare them for what awaits them. The reason is simple: nobody knows it. They will be the first to discover it.
Those who are chosen will enter history, become famous, but would never enjoy their being a celebrity. In fact, they’re going to live for the rest of their life in the midst of a desert, imprisoned in their habitats, in their suits or their rovers, without ever really being outdoors, knowing for sure that they will never return.

What happens if they do not get along? If one or more of them has a nervous breakdown? If they get ill? If they no longer follow the rules?
Especially at the beginning, when they are only four or eight and the isolation is something tangible (on Mars it is not even possible to communicate in real time with Earth), some problems will certainly arise. And it is not said that the increase of the population can solve them. The element that perhaps might be more difficult to accept is that there is no possibility of rethinking. If you don’t adapt, for whatever reason, you cannot return to Earth.

This certainty personally terrifies me. I think in a sense that a person who accepts this certainty is a bit crazy (in a good way). But I wonder how that person could become at the time when this idea is turned into reality.
The idea of spending the rest of my life on Mars had struck my imagination many years ago, when there was no Mars One, but I read an article on the web which presented such an initiative as something destined to become true sooner or later. Just that little I had read, along with the ideas spread by Robert Zubrin on the subject of the colonisation of Mars, are the basis of my sci-fi series “Red Desert”. Only after publishing the first book in Italy I discovered about the existence of Lansdorp’s foundation and this has renewed in me a certain sense of disquietude against such a project of colonisation. In fact, imagining such a thing in a novel is quite different from seeing it in reality.

I don’t know if Mars One will become a reality so quickly, because time is tight, anyway I hope the landing of man on Mars will happen as soon as possible. Although I would never want to be part of those brave (and crazy) people, I would really like to see such an achievement for mankind in the course of my life.


The following video was used by Mars One during the application campaign. Isnt it stunning?

A previous version of this article has been originally published in Italian on Anakina.net.