A highly-publicized plan to send the first humans to Mars within the next decade is riddled with problems and probably will not get off the ground any time soon, according to a new report from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Mars One program, developed by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, claims to be able to put a four-person crew on Mars by 2025 using “existing and available technology.” The group at MIT, on the hand, has identified many technological advances that will need to be met in order to make the one-way trip a reality, and enable a crew to survive on Mars for a reasonable amount of time.
“While this program has been received with great fanfare, very little has been published in the technical literature on this mission architecture,” the report said.
The team used mathematical models to evaluate the feasibility of the trip if living units with systems that produce water, oxygen, and nitrogen were deployed to the Martian surface ahead of time, as the Mars One plan suggests.
Using those variables, many simulations found that the trip would be a failure. For example, if according to the simulation, the crew is likely to require more food than what would be available in the food store then the crew would die of starvation before it could grow new food on the surface of Mars.
The image to the right shows the layout of the habitat unit and the location of different technologies used for one simulation as part of the MIT analysis.
The researchers pointed out countless challenges in their 35-page report. Notably, food that comes from crops grown on the Martian surface would produce “unsafe oxygen levels” and would require a yet-to-be-developed oxygen removal system, the authors write.
Unofficial sources have also said that the Mars lander will be based on a modified version of SpaceX’s Dragon module, although the private transport company has not made any mention of this plan.
The researchers found that sending up initial supplies for the first Mars crew would require 15 Falcon Heavy rockets, compared to Mars One’s modest estimate of just six.
“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” MIT professor Oliver de Weck said. “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they have made. We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”
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