Earlier this week, Elon Musk confirmed that there’s a ‘good chance’ settlers going to Mars as part of the first few missions will die. Although that is easy to imagine, he and others are currently working on planning and minimizing the risk of death by accident or hardship.
First Settles on Mars Will Die There
There are already major structural questions about the ways humans can settle on Mars. How can they aim Musk’s planned hundreds of Starships at the Red Planet at the right time for the shortest trips? How will a vehicle turn into something that lands on the planet‘s surface? How will astronauts manage to survive a years-long journey in a tight, closed spacecraft?
And all of this and more is before anyone even gets to touch the surface of Mars. Then it comes the logistical reasons to talk about potential Mars settles in play. First, the trip will take years, according to current calculations, and applicants to settlement programs are told to expect this journey to be one way.
This means that, statistically, there’s an almost certain possibility that these settles will die on Mars because their lives will continue on the Red Planet until they reach their end. Musk is mainly talking about preventing accidental death in tough conditions, but people are prone to remain on Mars until they die either way.
When Mars One opened applications back in 2013, people crowded to audition to die on Mars after a one-way journey and a lifetime of settlement.
Chemist and applicant Taylor Rose Nations said in a 2014 podcast episode: “If I can go to Mars and be a human guinea pig, I’m willing to sort of donate my body to science. I feel like it’s worth it for me personally, and it’s kind of a selfish thing, but just to turn around and look and see Earth. That’s a lifelong total dream.”
Looking to Build Long-Term Life Support
Musk said on Monday that developing a reusable rocket technology and steady, ‘complex life support’ are his main priorities when it comes to his aims to send humans on Mars. Musk has recently managed to successfully transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), where NASA and global space agencies already have life support technology in place.
However, that’s not the same as NASA’s advanced life support programs: “Advanced life support (ALS) technologies required for future human missions include improved Physico-chemical technologies for atmosphere revitalization, water recovery, and waste processing/resource recovery; biological processors for food production; and systems modeling, analysis, and controls associated with integrated subsystems operations.”
Simply put, while the ISS has many of these various functions such as water recovery, people on the Moon or Mars will need long-term life support for the same group of people and not a team that rotates every few months with regular short trips from Earth.
If the Mars colony intends to endure and settle, that means having food, shelter, medical care, and mental and emotional incentives for the whole group.
“Good chance you’ll die; it’s going to be tough going,” Musk said, “but it will be pretty glorious if it works out.”