Mars One, an organization based in the Netherlands, has been recruiting amateur astronauts to send on a one-way, televised trip to Mars, with the hopes of building a colony there. The organization says that the technology to do this exists, or will be ready by the time of its expected 2022 launch date.
Not so fast, says a group of strategic engineering graduate students at MIT. A simulation of the Mars One plan shared with the public at the recent International Astronautical Congress reveals the colonization project will likely end in disaster unless expensive changes are made.
Mars One plans on sending crews of four every two years to the Red Planet, where they will live inside space capsules and inflatable habitats, wringing water from the Martian soil and growing much of their own food. The researchers took into account the various factors necessary for survival—maintaining a breathable atmosphere, avoiding starvation and dehydration, preventing fire and depressurization—to see what the colony would need.
It takes 68 days for the first crew member to die.*
That projected fatality is the result of suffocation, space-style: The researchers found that growing plants would increase the amount of oxygen in the air to the point where it would need to be vented outside of the habitat to avoid increasing the pressure within the life support unit.