Would you go to Mars and never come back?


The big cost of traveling to Mars is in the coming back. Solution: Don't come back.

It's not a popular plan. Yet. But the basic idea—admitting that what we really want to do is colonize other worlds, and switching goals from exploration to permanent settlement—is starting to be openly discussed, says Popular Science. There's a paper on the subject in the Journal of Cosmology. And NASA and DARPA have started work on a project to build a "100 Year Starship". (Although, to be fair, they're not going to get very far on $1,100,000.)

Also interesting: One of the authors of the Cosmology paper says he'd go—but only after his kids were grown. Seems to me, if a colony of space Pilgrims was going to succeed in any meaningful way, it would need to include kids. Or, at least, couples and potential couples of child-bearing age. After all, you're going to become somewhat emotionally disconnected from Earth pretty quick out there. And who else are you building your Martian colony for?

What do you guys think? Would you go? Would you take your kids? Could you talk your spouse into it? Bearing in mind, we're talking real pioneering conditions here: "They would get periodic supply missions, but they would be expected to fend for themselves for water, shelter, nutrients and mineral/chemical processing. They would be expected to develop some kind of homegrown Martian industry."

If I'm being more honest, and less Walter Mitty, I'm not sure I could do it.

Popular Science: NASA, DARPA plan "Hundred Year Starship"

Image: Some rights reserved by Bluedharma


  1. I would go, but not on the first trip. Once there are at least a few people already living there without major issues, then I would go. If there are already a handful of people up there, it will at least take some of the risk factor away. Plus, you don’t have to be first to be awesome, i.e.: Buzz Aldrin.

  2. I can’t imagine people would bring their children, but instead be expected to conceive them on the ship. That would also serve as a way to find out how important Earth gravity is for bringing a child to term.
    I wouldn’t colonize a planet with a third less gravity than earth. There is no way that would be good for you.

    1. Actually, Martian gravity is one-third gee, not a third less than Earth gravity (2/3 gee). It’s not quite as bouncy as going to the Moon (1/10 gee), but you’d still be quite light on your feet.

    2. You hit the nail on the head here. This is all academic until we know if a Human fetus can develope in 1/3 the gravity of Earth. So far, tests with cell development, and complex biological systems, are not promising. That’s why, although it would be more difficult, Venus is the way to go. Mars is an outpost, not a true option for colonization. We are kidding ourselves, pushing off the gravity problem, assuming technology will catch up and solve it. So far I have not seen an article from NASA or Mars advocates addressing this obvious problem.

  3. I would go, and agree that there need to be people with potential childbearing possibilities out there as well. However, I don’t think I’d take kids that were younger than their teens, and able to make a somewhat informed decision about the process themselves.
    I know my son of 5, for instance, would LOVE to go but wouldn’t be able to grasp the “never coming back” aspect of it until it was entirely too late, and I wouldn’t want to be blamed for that when he was a surly 13 year old.
    It would be all children born “on the way” knew, so it would be different for them.

  4. As said already, I would go, but not be first. I need 7-11 and A&W to colonize the planet before I make the journey. And a good stripper bar.. the kind where the women have 3 breasts.

    Can you imagine the packet lag for Internet gaming? You would have to spend a fortune on a good Ethernet card.

    Also, would you still be paying taxes here on Earth? I mean, you ARE living on another planet.. The IRS won’t care though.

    1. Also, would you still be paying taxes here on Earth? I mean, you ARE living on another planet.. The IRS won’t care though.

      Ah yes I can see it now. The Mars Outpost Sagan-XVI Tang Party, wherein disenfranchised colonists blast lyophilized tea flavored drink mix into the vacuum of space in order to protest unfair taxation by their home planet.

    2. Probably for a long time, the Earth would be spending money on you. Sensible people probably wouldn’t mind paying them back afterwards, although that didn’t always work for overseas colonies.

  5. Gerard Kuiper, founder of the Lunar & Planetary Labs in Tucson, volunteered to go on a one-way trip to the moon. This was in the early-1960’s, when the Apollo project was still in its infancy.

    As I recall (this is from a conversation with him in the early 1970’s), Kuiper suggested a one-way landing on the moon, with sufficient supplies to allow him to do geological research for several days. He would radio back the information to the earth. This was immediately nixed – NASA didn’t consider such dead-end missions.

    Today, of course, robotic systems allow extraterrestrial explorations without one-way tickets for humans.

    The cost of sending a person on a space mission is many times the cost of an unmanned robotic exploration. James Van Allen (of the Van Allen belt fame) strongly objected to manned spaceflight, believing that remote sensing and robotic landers were economically and scientifically more rewarding.

  6. Um,
    I graduated from the army cold weather leadership course, live in central alaska and have spent years in Iraq, Afganistan and other totally inhospitable places.

    I’ll keep a duffel bag packed…

  7. I’ve read Red Mars, I know how it all ends up. Over there it’s all hippy sex and space elevators, here on Earth it’s all genocide and megacorporations.

    Easy choice.

  8. In my life time, most likely not. Now if space travel became a bit more hospitable, I’d probably be willing to go on a 100 person capacity ship with 50 people on it and head in the direction of a possible other planet. So in my life time, most likely not…

  9. BOne would need to seriously consider what sort of social organization would be on the colony: hierarchical, egalitarian, socialist (!), etc. The most sensible solution would be something, loosely, akin to a family structure than a government (no Big Brothers though), but with a strong emphasis on accountability and personal responsibility: everyone pulls their own weight, but in the same direction.

    I would definitely go. Very seldom do any of us get a chance to start over. But even rarer for an entire species to start again, and maybe build something better. I welcome the opportunity, and the challenge.

  10. I would go to bring these martian pioneers the GOOD NEWS about Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten son of a desert god from another planet.

  11. I think the idea of it is “Never coming back..unless in your lifetime or your offsprings’ we have a transit back and forth between Mars, which would be very likely given there’s a reason for it”

  12. They can always go the Australia route and turn Mars into a penal colony. Criminals, malcontents and other misfits could be offered a clean slate if they went to Mars and never returned to Earth. Handy for political prisoners too.

  13. If it was done in the style of the book Red Mars (hard sci-fi describing a 100-strong group settling Mars,) yes. Lots of hard work, risk, but also an amazing opportunity.

    Granted, I’m still reading the book, so maybe everyone will die horribly and convince me otherwise.

  14. I’d go if this was offered before I had kids – but I could not now, although my son says he’d go w/me – My daughter won’t go because she loves water and trees, and my wife says she “doesn’t want to live in a pod”.

  15. I’m not sure I would survive, but I would go.

    There aren’t many risks that big, which also means, there aren’t really many rewards that big. As a person with an incredibly strong fear of death (IE, I can give myself a panic attack just by thinking about not existing anymore), I have a drive to make my life meaningful and worthwhile and I can’t think of a better way to do it. The rewards are quite vast: the first colonists control a lot of the way their new society is shaped. Think, for example, the way Rockefeller controlled his industry or the way the certain financial firms (Morgan, Goldman, etc.) control the free world’s money… this all started from guys named Morgan and Goldman.

    I’m not saying I want a power-hungry dictatorship, but I could have a hand in shaping the society I wanted, and a pervasive dynasty passed down through the ages, with Mars life getting easier and easier for subsequent generations of my kids. It would be amazing to be history’s Father of Mars. It’s a chance to become a REAL historical figure in an age where dissemination makes everyone famous for something for a few minutes. It’s a chance to do something gigantic and meaningful for the entire species of humanity. I would go!

  16. I would love to go and leave Earth behind forever. I would even go on the first ship. However, I just couldn’t do that to my mom. I’ll be staying on this planet for now.

    1. We’ll need John Boone to balance things out, if that’s the case.

      And yes, I would go if I could be a member of the first 100, a la Red Mars.

  17. Most of our “civilized” world was settled by people taking on one-way trips. The first Spanish explorers had no idea if they would return. The first US colonists from Europe were on a one-way trip. People migrating from the east coast to the West coast were on a one-way trip.

    What makes you think its different today? All through human history, people have embarked on a one-way trip in search of something better or to start anew.

  18. I think the radiation levels would be the biggest concern for me. Is portable magnetosphere technology even close enough to reality at this point to consider this mission? There’s no sense sending people if they’re just going to succumb to the effects of radiation after a couple of years.

    1. The lack of a magnetosphere was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the title of this post. Then I wondered about the quality of life that generations of living in an artificial environment would have to endure. It might be okay to volunteer yourself for that, but would it be ethical to subject your children and grandchildren to a lifetime in an artificial environment with no other options?

  19. If the offer were suddenly made to me today (I’m unmarried, with no children), I’d go without hesitation.

    And as long as we’re speculating about social structures, I suspect the optimal settlement would be structured along the order of a kibbutz, or a monastery.

    1. And as long as we’re speculating about social structures, I suspect the optimal settlement would be structured along the order of a kibbutz, or a monastery.

      Jeez, social structures will be worked out by people fighting about it until the less powerful factions are physically defeated, just like they are here on Earth.

      Y’all would do better to worry about what kind of “home-grown Martian industry” would be possible, which would be: Flintstones level. And that’s not going to work. Imagine you build a pressurized habitat here on Earth, big enough for a hundred people and enough agriculture to feed them all, you somehow launch it all the way to Mars. Now what. They all have kids. They need more space. How are they going to duplicate the environment they live in? Do they have an iron mine? A refinery that can create plastics? Out of what? How can they even fix the equipment they already have?

      People are not tripping over each other to “colonize” Antarctica, for glory or adventure or any other reason, because it’s just not worth the trouble. And Mars is thousands of times more inhospitable than that.

      You wake up on Mars tomorrow, you look around your little bubble, maybe a couple of weeks go by for the novelty to wear off, cabin fever sets in. You can’t even go outside without a pressure suit, frankly you just don’t bother. Even people in Alaska stay home and drink in that kind of weather. And you look up through the bubble at dusk and see Earth on the horizon and say “what the fuck have I done.”


  20. I would go in a heartbeat. Even if I died on the way, it would have been worth it just to see space up close.

  21. I have been sold on going this way since I was about 14 or 15. I heard Robert Zubrin speak about his book, ‘The Case for Mars’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Mars) on NPR and promptly ordered the book.

    I’ll sign up to go and not come back. Duh. I’m still working on convincing my fiancé about what the prospect of not going back really means, which is that while your meat may never make it back to Earth, you can always go there in your memory.

    Or in the immersive virtual reality that develops to meet the needs of colonists.

    And I would want to have kids on the way there, what else are you going to do during shipping?

  22. If I went with a sufficiently large group. The physical hardships would totally be worth it–we’re not talking about being another Daniel Boone, here–we’re talking about being another Adam. The implications are huge.

  23. Treat Mars like the British treated Australia: populate it with convicts. Plus turn it into a reality show, with the convicts pitted in death matches against each other– the revenue will help fund the colonization effort.

  24. Most of our “civilized” world was settled by people taking on one-way trips. The first Spanish explorers had no idea if they would return. The first US colonists from Europe were on a one-way trip. People migrating from the east coast to the West coast were on a one-way trip.

    What makes you think its different today? All through human history, people have embarked on a one-way trip in search of something better or to start anew.

  25. Seeing as we don’t even have permanent residents on Antarctica or in submersible habitats, I an very skeptical this as any sort of viable option. We don’t exactly have people falling over themselves to live in nuclear submarines plopped down in the middle of the Gobi desert. Oh and while you are there you need to set up something approaching a major mining operation, a foundry and something partially replicating the functionality of a major aerospace plant.

  26. Well, I think Kennedy had the end of this sentence for a reason.

    “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon *and returning him safely to the Earth*.”

    It’s really more impressive if your astronaut can still talk about it decades later. Instead of being, you know — dead.

  27. I would go in a heartbeat. Where can I sign up? Keep in mind we could probably communicate with our loved ones via delayed video. Some would consider that an improvement. No interruptions!

  28. I would go in a minute, though I’m not sure I could talk my family into going… But I would try. I think being of childbearing age and/or bringing kids should be a requirement, because a colony isn’t going to be able to sustain itself without kids and lots of them.

    I don’t get all the soul-searching here about whether or not to bring kids. You think the colonists asked their kids for permission? Or the homesteaders? There were kids on the Mayflower, and there should be kids on Mars, too.

  29. !#%!@ yeah – I warned my wife years ago (and reminded her and my son recently) that I would spend every dime I had and kiss them goodbye for a chance at a one way ticket. Even if there were no colony to go to. :)

  30. Before you jump on a rocket, check out this imagined version of that Mars trip by radio producer, Roman Mars (seriously, his last name is Mars!).

  31. I agree, you should all go, and take all the lawyers, politicians, extremists too. Just leave the earth to me. The meek shall inherit the earth? because everybody else buggered off.

  32. I’ve spent a lot of time (really, way too much time!) thinking about Mars colonies. It’s really brought home how much we under-value the life support that this planet has provided for free.

    I’m trying to imagine what the early European explorers would have done if the new world had been as dry as Antarctica. A sand-blasted desert as empty as the Arabian peninsula. Would they have taken the long view and invested generations worth of lifeblood into creating a new ecology from scratch? Fuck that, they were in it for the gold and the slaves.

    A viable human Mars colony ranks below machine sentience and robust nanotechnology, in the big picture view of things. We’re more likely to expand the definition of human to include AI robots, and consider the planet colonized if we can smelt the steel and build these robots remotely.

    Sure, if the technological infrastructure of earth could somehow be exported without actually exporting the humans, then eventually people will play the tourist and walk on martian soil and smell terraformed regolith through natural born noses.

    But it won’t have been people who would have done the heavy lifting, no shiny metal Conestoga wagon train to the stars, that’s right up there with lead-into-gold.

    On the other hand, it’s entirely plausible to imagine a Moon_is_a_Harsh_Mistress style penal colony on Mars, one that appears viable, just as long as it takes to get the most outspoken troublemakers off-planet. At which point there would be a Capricorn_One style failure.

    The whole thing really makes me appreciate this planet all the more.

  33. > Also, would you still be paying taxes here on Earth? I mean, you ARE living on another planet.. The IRS won’t care though.

    I just got a vision of the colonists saying something like that. “Why are we still paying taxes to the king? I mean, we’re not even on the same continent!”

  34. I’d go in a heartbeat.

    Perhaps that answer would be different if I had kids, or if it was even possible.

    I’m going to die one day, why not die do something completely out of this world and amazing.

    Sure I might die from starvation or exposure, loss of oxygen, ect.. Or my pod/ship might impact on landing cause some asshat didn’t do the m/s to ft/s conversion right…

    You know or the aliens get me one.

  35. You Earthlings have it all back-asswards. How are you going to get a vital ecosystem going elsewhere if you can’t even stop yourself from fucking up a perfectly good one at home?

    Exercise 1: Save the planet.
    Exercise 2: Get real good at building an ecosystem in a closed container and keeping it going indefinitely, using inexhaustible energy sources only.

  36. Space… the Final Frontier. This is the voyage of the starship Enterprise. Her only mission: to explore a strange new world, to seek out no life forms or new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before to never return.

  37. I have long said that we shouldn’t send people to other worlds other than as part of colonization missions. While I don’t approve of suicide missions a one-way mission with adequate life support being provided isn’t a suicide mission.

    While I would not personally go there are plenty of adventuresome types that would.

  38. Even a minimal manned Mars expedition is a 3-year effort since we are limited by planetary alignments. With the additional radiation exposure its going to subtract a decade from your potential life time. So if you blast off at age 45 (after your kids grew up) you might just as well stay there.

    Of course the real problem is still braking a colony ship at Mars. But not having to carry return fuel does help.

  39. Who wouldn’t want to go to Barsoom and meet Tars Tarkas? The geek in me would jump at the opportunity. She’d be too jealous that I’d spark the interest of Dejah Thoris. The fact that I’m even familiar with these names probably puts me in the too old category. But the fact that I’m reading Boing Boing probably adds some street cred to my changes as well.

  40. Given the increased mutation rate thanks to the higher radiation level, the founder effect and human plasticity, you’re probably only a few generations away from Homo sapiens martius

  41. I think one would need to go as a community, not as a (single) family. That would make much more sense from a social animal perspective, and it would also really cut down on all kinds of emotional problems.

  42. I would go ONLY if it was set up as a dumping ground of dangerous political and thought criminals. Just wait til the King Georges in Washington, Bejing, and Moscow tried to apply tighter control as the colony becomes economically valuable. Unfortunately only after it is too late will the bureaucracy wonks read any science fiction book about mars and realize their mistake.
    Reality is the best colonists would be those fleeing a literal hell on earth such as the Irish potato famine for a much better life.

  43. I once spent a month on the Atlantic in a 30′ sailboat with 3 other men and a dog. I’d go, but only if there was a strict 50/50 gender balance, with allowances for bi/homo persons also. And a few hundred people would have to arrive within the first few years or it would get Lord of the Flies-like.

    I would also go with the intent of immediately beginning to foment discontent and separatist sentiments. If I can’t write a sci-fi novel trope, I had might as well live one.

    1. I agree 100%, there need to be ‘non-breeding’ (pardon the term) people from the start, or the colony will be hellish for any second or third generation colonists who are gay or don’t want to have kids for some reason.

  44. I would go. I was on a fast attack submarine in the navy before VHS and DVD. That should qualify me. It would help if there was some sort of like minded one way Mars singles program. That way I I wouldn’t have to talk somebody into going. I would like to bring my dog too. And a duck. Right now I can’t have a duck according to laws here in town. I might be able to have a duck on Mars.

      1. I would take a duck because to me a duck is sturdy, beautiful and absurd. It would have to be a mallard duck. They have a lot of the colors here in the midwest and would be my small reminder of the old earth. It wouldn’t be so domesticated as to be boring. He could swim around with me in my martian bathtub/water reclaimer. To my neighbors I would be that one guy with the duck. I wouldn’t name him daffy or quacky. He would be named Leon. When he passed away, one of my favorites, Almond Duck!

      1. i once spent three hours on a tiny plane flying to a remote arctic village, then sat out a blizzard in a 1 star hotel. how much tougher could mars be?

        It will be like that, for the rest of your life.

  45. Before I got married and had kids? Of course. Sign me up. Now I have responsibilities, so not very likely.

    That said, to me the most terrifying passage I ever read about the prospect of living on Mars was written by Maureen McHugh in China Mountain Zhang:

    “And there is the council meeting. I haven’t been to a council meeting in years. They hold them in the Commune cafeteria at the long hour on Thursday nights. I don’t know who decided that since the martian day is thirty-seven minutes and twenty three seconds longer than the earth day we should have the hour from eight to nine p.m. last one hour thirty-seven minutes and twenty-three seconds. If we’re going to have a long hour I’d rather have it in the morning. But it’s a bureaucrat’s dream, an hour and thirty-seven minutes to have an hour meeting.”

  46. Absolutely. Sign me the hell up. Please oh please oh please.

    I’m happily married, with a reasonably successful career. I have friends and family. I have a dog, a cat, a car, a bank account, and so on. I would give it all up today for the chance to be a pioneer on another world (given a chance of success, however slight). I could make far more of a positive difference on that world that I ever will in my present one.

    Of course, I’m with Stephen Hawking; space exploration is the closest thing to a moral imperative we’ve got.

  47. i’m single. atheist, vasectomied and the only child of two deceased parents. and my credit sucks. where do i sign?

  48. There are certain personality types that will be ripe for this kind of adventure. I’ve been thinking that that is part of our problem in the U.S. (the world?) lately- some people want to live away from the reach of much government intervention, yet there’s very little wilderness left to explore and colonize and make their own.

    Maybe this would be a bit of a pressure valve when it starts to happen?

    Just a thought.

  49. “But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious… service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature” — Dr. Strangelove.

  50. Sure, take the wife, take the kids. Take a navigator of an age compatible with the oldest daughter. Take the robot for sure, to alert you if there is danger at the very least. But leave that whining asshole Dr. Smith behind! Even if he ends up an accidental stowaway, jettison him from the airlock!

  51. I would go in a second/today/right now before even eating breakfast. I would take all of my kids (three), and my wife.

    Eventually once some mining/resource gathering was set up it would become profitable, I’m sure they would have us sending back various stuffs (like that movie Moon). We’d get supply drops eventually. I’d get to explore that face up close, (it’s totally a face). We’d probably have internet access, albeit with really horrible ping times. My twitter account would be HUGE.

  52. Australia? Didn’t England send undesirables there rather permanently? I mean, what says “Space Colonization” like “Prison Colony”?

  53. Yes, yes, and yes. If they paid my ticket? Sure!

    Of course, I plan to dress up as a Martian and throw all the tea out of the airlock at a certain point!

    Seriously. I’m sure there are plenty of brave would-be Martian explorers – if they put the word out it would fill up pretty fast!

  54. I’d go in a second. I have no children and my girlfriend would understand. Where’s the sign-up sheet?

  55. I’d love to think I’m the type for it but I think I’d get insanely homesick. Friends and family aside, and thinking only of planetary sensations, I’d miss the cool breeze off an ocean while your toes wriggled in warm sand. I’d miss grassy fields to play in. And woods to get lost in. I’d probably even miss cold Seattle rain after awhile. If there were some sort of virtual reality tech that could be created to satisfy such Earthly longings I think it’d definitely help.
    As to someone’s comment earlier about “how could you subject your children to a life in an artificial environment”, they would only know the difference if they knew what Earth children had that they didn’t. If all they knew was the artificial environment they were born and raised in, they wouldn’t feel like they were being “subjected” to anything.

  56. You’d soon be living a subsistance existance spending most of your time tending crops and the machines (eg your power reactor, your sewage processor..). You would become master of reusing stuff, like every rural person. “Maker” by necessity.

    Bring a cat and cannabis, the nights are long.

  57. Stranded is an interesting Mars genre movie. It goes the Ancient Martian Civilization route but still is fascinating.

    The idea of Mars colonization has a fascinating draw for a lot of people. Hard to understand it, but I’m drawn to it too.

  58. I would only go if I was the first. Pass or fail you would be immortalized in history. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

  59. My wife and I would actually consider it. The kids are too young to make the decision themselves and choosing this for them might not be fair. In 15 years when the kids are grown up, hell yeah!

    First human couple to live and die on Mars….

  60. How about if the US sends all of their incarcerated to Mars, isn’t that like 20-percent of our adult population now? And fund it with all of the DOJ funds that we save. Wait, why does this sound familiar…

  61. Interested in colonising Mars but born too early and/or too poor? Why not get most of the hassle for a fraction of the price by going to live in the Gobi desert?

  62. I would go, but not on the first trip. Once there are at least a few people already living there,Unless How could i say no to an opportunity like that.

  63. I’ve heard that Mars isn’t the kind of place to raise your kids — in fact, it’s cold as hell.

    1. Came into the comments for the Rocketman reference. Got very worried when I was halfway through and saw nothing. Thank you, for not leaving me disappointed :-)

  64. Note that the above photo doesn’t depict Mars!

    If you take the trip based on that, you’ll be disappointed. :) (Actually it’s a little piece of Mars projected onto a much smaller sphere in order to highlight Valles Marineris.)

  65. There is a large range in “not coming back”. At the moment that means you might die after a year or two or even on the way. But if not coming back just ment a nice life on mars then plenty of people would sign up.

    That’s how we have explored and settled the world. First are the explorers who take high risks to get everything set up. Then once the place is running smoothly people don’t mind settling.

  66. Not one person has mentioned the obvious here:

    There are three options:

    1. Send people who can’t come back, without permanent life support (easy)
    2. Send people with equipment to return to Earth (hard)
    3. Send people with an attempt to settle permanently on Mars (very very hard)

    I see a lot of people mixing up Option 1 and Option 3.

    Also, it is highly likely that settlers would run into a serious problem, like the fact that they all get cancer, or they all die of diseases related to weakness from the low gravity. This is not like going to the New World. Mars may not be readily inhabitable by humans. The PR disaster of a full colony dying would be a huge problem for NASA.

    Finally, if anyone is going to do true manned space exploration, my guess is that it will be China. They are much better at accepting individual risk than we are now.

    1. I agree with in a way, no one had explicitly stated that.
      However, I think that many, if not most of the “volunteers” here understand this.
      Knowing that I might be dead within a year or two on a Mars mission is no deterrent at all, for me, anyway.

      NASA, just give us what is needed to set up a base, set up life support systems, possibly mining equipment, water extraction systems and oxygen processors/purifiers/CO2 scrubbers, and a big science kit, and we’ll be going…

      1. What I guess I was pointing out was the confusion in the original post.

        Maggie started out saying, essentially: we can save the cost of the return flight by not returning. Then she proceeded to tack on colonization, which is orders of magnitude more difficult than a simple one-way ticket to Mars.

        So there are really two questions in the post:

        1. Would you volunteer to go on a one way trip, with no hope of permanent settlement? You get to stay alive on Mars for maybe a month, but you get posterity.

        2. Would you volunteer to be one of the first permanent settlers on a colony, even with a low chance of long-term survival?

        They are two very different questions. My guess is that only 25% of the people who would do #2 would say yes to #1.

  67. I’m not saying I have a hard time wrapping my head around the “never come back” part, but will this trip be reflected in my frequent flier miles?

  68. I’m sure willing volunteers could be found for such a voyage. If the goal is just human exploration of Mars, there would be no need for breeding.

    If the goal is to learn about Mars the more pragmatic way to do it is to keep sending unmanned probes. Why send humans just for the sake of being able to say we landed humans on another planet? We don’t have endless money and resources for such a project and we can gain more scientific knowledge for the cost from unmanned exploration.

  69. I think I would go. but not in the first one.

    Most interesting: There would be no money. The first ones just don’t need it. It would be easier without it.

  70. Pioneering isn’t quite my thing, if my dad would probably kill to go. He went to college to become an architect, with the dream of designing space habitats.

  71. Serious question, what kind of payload could we put on the surface with a current gen heavy rocket, along the lines of a Delta IV heavy or Ariane 5? What does that translate to in terms of crew and equipment? If a one way trip would put using current rockets directly launched into the realm of reasonability than I’d be all for one way – if we need an HLLV we might as well do the return trip first IMO.

  72. I’d go, and so would a lot of my geek friends. We all grew up with the idea that someday we might get into space or colonize another planet. Thanks to the redirected energies of the last 40 or so years since the height of the space race, probably not within our lifetimes. Most of us are now getting too old to be viable candidates for colonization, anyway; how many 40+ nerds, no matter how talented, can a Mission to Mars accommodate?

  73. For sure!!!

    Being the first human on mars, will be -maybe- the best I will do in all my life. At least I find a cure for Aids, wich I think i don’t
    I will just need a live feed with music.

  74. Would I go?

    At best, it’d be like spending the rest of your life as cabin crew on a transatlantic flight.

    No way. I like the outdoors.

  75. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Rick Moody’s latest novel, “The Four Fingers of Death” with pretty much a similar scenario (well, it’s a science fiction novel embedded in the larger story). Interesting parallel questions and challenges, and a outrageous premise (of course, it’s Rick Moody, after all). He should weigh in on this, since he’s already explored the subject in a very imaginative, yet utterly well-informed (scientifically) way. Check it out!

  76. Sounds a bit romantic to me.

    The technology is going to be sufficiently complex that some kind of failure is likely. Our spotty record of nuclear safety comes to mind, and that recent unpleasantness in the Gulf of Mexico, and any number of commercial airliners that crashed or blew up despite sincere best efforts. If we’re serious, we send two ships and hope one gets there.

    As for taking kids, well, that’s for people who take their kids along when they drive drunk.

  77. Not only would I go, I’d pay a thousand dollars or more just to be in the lottery for the seats! There’s your finance thingy BTW…

  78. Pull the plug on NASA, hand space over to the military, and sing me up for help in creating the sustainable colony here on earth.

  79. I’ve been saying for some time now that I will have consider the future to have been properly achieved if only I could retire to the moon. I now realize I was being far too provincial with the relocation and, furthermore, I mightn’t need to retire at all if it was to somewhere more forgiving on my spine and knees without being akin to a bounce house. Couple all this with the opportunity to do something truly new and important, & I’d be a lock. I expect by the time this is even an option my one indispensible family member may have passed on, and if I myself am not considered too old, I will smash the rear-view mirror and floor it.

  80. Today in the NYT the was an article about sending a humanoid robot to mars as this would cheaper yet — besides the lack of the return trip, there would be no need for life support. Which brings up the internesting possibility — why not send a corpse? Is there any rule that says that the first man on Mars has to be alive for it to count?

  81. Yes!

    Sure, I’d do everything in my power to make sure this was a safe and sustainable expedition. But to me, the main question, the one that really matters is simple: Yes, I would go, no matter what. Heck, I think I would even sign up for arikol’s suicide mission, in the confidence that they would design any manned mission to have at least a longer expected lifespan as any of the robotic mission have had. Nobody is going to design a 2 year trip with only a month on-planet (although I have no doubt you would find volunteers even for that).

  82. So it’s come to this. I take this question as a sign that we really are bankrupt if we are considering the cost savings of not bringing back our modern pioneers. What kind of cespool are we leaning over declaring opportunity and riches? Round trip, then colonization.

  83. I would go. Can I bring my dog and some games with me? There’s nothing for me here on Earth. I have schizoid personality, and I would rather be alone in space.

  84. I’d do it if I could have one of those Dr. Manhattan crystal ship thingys.

    But seriously, I don’t think so. I can barely get through a Seattle winter without going nuts. You need the earth’s gravity and sunlight. As soon as you got there, you would start dying. It might take a while… but yeah, if you could travel around the surface in a suit it would be a pretty amazing experience…

  85. There are lots of people who would go, and that’s their choice. But to bring couples and start families? Not sure that’s a great idea. How would you like to be a kid born on a space colony with zero chance of ever going outside and breathing fresh air or swimming in the ocean? That just seems like child abuse on a grand scale.

  86. I can’t believe no one’s said this but….

    Mars ain’t the kinda place to raise your kids.
    In fact, it’s cold as hell.
    And there’s no one there to raise them
    if you did.

  87. I would go in a heartbeat.

    This is the frontier. This is greatest adventure in human history. I would risk everything for it.

  88. HELL NO! Are you crazy?!? There’s no there, there. Just rocks. Endless blasted landscape and terrible weather. . .no trees, no ocean, no birds. . .no nuthin’.

    Ferget it. I’m out.

  89. Wow, this is ironic, I just wrote a paper saying how in the future, space colonies will be thriving and I travel to Mars to live on one…

  90. I’m a 26-year-old female, I’d go there and help start a colony. Even if I died en route, even if I died on planet, I’d still consider it a worthwhile use of my life.

  91. Here’s a thought I’ve had for a long time: We should do this, but with animals. Set up permanent colonies of animals using robots, remote equipment and remote monitoring. Start small and close by, with mice on the moon, for example, and work our way up the evolutionary ladder and outward. At some point, if the projects were successful, it would be logical to add some of us. In the meantime, the space program would get lots of low-risk practice building self-sustaining habitats, lots of cool publicity (little kids watching live-cam action of mice zipping around and playing in 1/6 or 1/3 gravity), lots of info about how terrestrial organisms fare in low gravity environments, and etc., etc., etc. Suggested this to a NASA type on C-Span one morning and he looked back at me through the TV like I had just farted. Typical engineer; no moxie about what might sell space exploration to the public, long term.

  92. Before I came a parent I would have considered a one way trip to mars. I wouldn’t consider leaving a young while behind. Once my son is an adult I might consider it.

  93. I’d go. No doubts, No questions. Put me in the training, the suit, the ship, on the planet and I’m down.

  94. I was thinking of what it would be like to live free – to just tell everyone I’m moving away but not tell them where. Then I’d sell everything (I mean everything) and take a trip around the world with whatever money I had, and just see how far it goes.

    Once the money is all gone, I could find a nice quiet place to commit suicide. Depending on where I travelled, the money could last a long time. People wouldn’t worry about me, they might miss me and wonder where I went all those years ago, but they’d think I was ok, and they’d be right, because I’d want it to be like that.

    This way, I’d finally experience a free life, and die happy. I know that sounds messed up to some people – but wouldn’t it be beautiful to have that kind of freedom, if only for a short time?

    Now add Mars to that. Anything that holds me back from living what I’ve described would have no meaning when the opportunity to visit Mars is added into the mix. I’d do it this instant.

  95. Anyone seen pandorum yet? besides that reference,
    we as a species just aren’t ready for space. We’ll bring our guns, pointless elitism and all that other crazy shit humanity deals with.
    No, only astronauts should be going out and colonizing. our smartest, most physically fit and most mentally stable.


  96. In a heartbeat. What a challenge and adventure it would be, assuming we made it there and landed without incident.

  97. If I had a chance to help build something like the near-anarchist society in Kim Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, it would be pretty tempting.

  98. I’d recommend those who would go to have experience in doing something similar here on Earth first. As an expat of one nation living in another for 2+ years so far, I have learned that leaving family, friends, culture, and anything resembling “home” can be a significant stress on one’s psyche. If the Martian community shares ideas in another language that you aren’t fluent in yet, are you willing to make it yours, at the risk of coming across as an idiot to those who already know the language? I already have done so, and it isn’t fun to be treated like a fool 3 times before breakfast just for not having mastery in that language. If things aren’t in your favor for finding a suitable mate, are you ok with living the single life for a long time? To tell you the truth, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel plenty of times, but I consider the One who called me to this to be bigger than my own concerns. I’ll leave you with these words on the subject:

    Capt. Picard: I understand what you’ve done here, Q. But I think the lesson could have been learned without the loss of 18 members of my crew.
    Q: If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.

  99. Yes! But 2nd or 3rd wave. I want to be in soon enough that I can lay claim to hundreds of acres and leave my future generations rich, but not so soon I die first.

  100. I would go on any trip to Mars. I’m 22 and capable of having kids and learning the necessary tools to survive on mars. I think it would be the most amazing adventure ever. and i’m all about adventure!

  101. I would go in a heartbeat. An eager, mid-20’s male looking to do something meaningful. Imagine the opportunity; a chance to be a founding member of something that has the potential to be one of the greatest achievements of mankind.
    People in America often evoke the hard work and dedication that went into the founding of the U.S. as a means of describing ourselves as a culture and as a people, and maybe that dedication still exists, but it seems, in these times, people are all too complacent and eager to gripe and moan about something before lifting a finger to change it.
    The most difficult aspect of cutting your roots away and leaving for a world barren of any trace of organized civilization would be the understanding that while you may only achieve very little in your lifetime on the red planet; possibly establishing a permanent settlement, a rudimentary economy, maybe even raising a family (and you think living in Alaska is difficult for the everyday bachelor), an unofficial requirement for becoming a settler would have to be the capability to see beyond the short-term. Like the early pilgrims of America, settlers would need to have an unshakable faith that what they were working to create was right and would serve as a model of achievement for generations to come.

  102. I feel like if such an expedition were launched, the only people who would agree to go would be people who are suicidal, depressed, have “nothing” or “no one” here, or for some reason or another, are not completely in love with the planet Earth. It seems like it would make for a really sad bunch of people.

    A one way trip to Mars would mean spending the rest of your life in a small, smelly can, breathing stale air, never meeting a stranger, and never ever setting foot outdoors again. Much like Das Boot, but forever.

    To never see a blue sky again? To never taste the sweet air of our home planet? To never run on a beach, swim under a waterfall, climb a tree, watch the sun set over the ocean?

    I admire the “pioneer” spirit, but, no thanks.

    1. @dollarama

      You’ve obviously never met an astronaut, have you? These guys are probably the biggest bad asses in the world. Everything they do is life threatening but that’s like normal fare for them. Every day they’re up there, they risk getting destroyed by a solar flare or worse. They live a lifestyle that, obviously, many people on this forum couldn’t live. People talking about social structure and living free are being completely ridiculous. If you do this, you do it to work and to sacrifice everything for humanity. Again, normal fare for astronauts. Even the first moon mission was just a feat of genius and pure badassery. They had every second of that mission, including how much to burn the engines, down to a t. This was before computers.
      About social structure, it doesn’t matter what the astronauts think, they would do what they’re told to do because they’re not there to set up a commune, they’re there to secure a place to live for future colonization efforts. The only people there for the first long while of colonization would be only scientists and astronauts. They wouldn’t require social structure.
      And finally, I would go in a heartbeat. If it meant I died while leaving earth’s orbit, I would be glad to do so.

      1. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for astronauts and what they do. I myself am a pilot and have a small understanding of what it means to be in a small space and putting oneself at risk of destruction, granted of course that they do it for a much more heroic purpose.

        The thing about this one way Mars trip is that you are 100% guaranteed to never breathe fresh air again for the rest of your life. I think even many astronauts would back out of that deal.

  103. I think I would do it, but I don’t think I’d be best for a one-way mission. The people who do this won’t be the folks who answer “In a heartbeat” or instantly perceive this mission as an escape or something “adventurous.” They will be incredibly stable/unbreakable people who sign up only after intense consideration, rigorous testing, and achieving real peace with the decision.

    That said, I think it’s a great idea and I wish we would get on with it. But I think it will really be feasible after we develop something similar to ‘holodeck’-type technology, which may still be a while.

  104. This is similar to all early explorers. Those that left Europe for the new world didn’t expect to ever return. Even when settling the American west, most who went never expected to be able to return. But at least they knew there would be air to breath, and they could find food and water. Mars would be a lot more difficult.

    The brave and strong survived, the meek and weak never left. Yes, I would go.

    1. This is similar to all early explorers. Those that left Europe for the new world didn’t expect to ever return.

      Common for settlers, yes. Common for explorers, no. Magellan, Columbus, Lewis & Clark, Cortés, Captain Cook… all those guys planned on coming back once they found out what was out there (though not all of them succeeded in doing so).

      You can’t very well establish a colony until you find out what the conditions are like. Of course in this case the first wave of explorers were robots, but we still have a lot to learn about human survival on the planet.

      I say that if it’s a one-way trip then the first wave should be adults who aren’t planning to have any more kids, maybe 60-somethings who are fit enough to fend for themselves but old enough that the prospect of an early (possibly radiation-induced) death isn’t such a downer. After we see a successful proof-of-concept we can send everybody else.

  105. I’m a magician. Lock me in a trunk and send me, and I’ll be back in a week — on stage in Vegas.

  106. Will there be monkeys brought along?
    I hope there’s monkeys….

    …but I also hope there’s no mean aliens using slaves to mine the resources there.

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