Mars One may have taken us by surprise when the non-profit organisation boldly announced that it would put colonists on Mars in the 2020s. We were even more amazed when legions of amateur astronauts signed up for a one-way ticket to the red rock. However, MIT students believe the effort, in its current form, is doomed to fail.
Using publicly available info on the space mission, the researchers developed what they call a “Mars settlement analysis tool” and discovered that this frontier expedition will end up more like the Donner Party than anything else. After crunching the numbers, the students found a number of “failure conditions” that would doom the Mars One crew. First, the required caloric intake of the astronauts compared to the mission’s food store estimates don’t match up, meaning the astronauts would simply starve.
But that’s not the only issue. Indoor crops would create a high oxygen atmosphere and the technology needed to filter oxygen while maintaining nitrogen, needed for air pressure, isn’t nearly efficient enough, according to the researchers. The group also estimates that for a colony to be successful it will require at least 15 Falcon Heavy launches totalling near $US4.5 billion.
Popular Science spoke with Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp about the study and claimed that the students’ estimates were incorrect and based on incomplete data. However, he did acknowledge the mission faces one tricky obstacle: replacement parts. MIT used the International Space Station to create estimates for how often parts need replacing, and the study concluded that spare parts would need to be 62 per cent of the initial payload if no follow-up mission was planned for the next two years.
MIT Researcher Sydney Do tells Popular Science that they’re more than happy to update their findings based on Mars One’s own data, so hopefully this brave and bold space mission didn’t make an enemy but an invaluable ally. [Popular Science]