MIT study delivers blow to plans of setting up human colony on Mars

  • Vanita Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 16, 2014 02:37 IST

In what could possibly slow down the process of establishing a colony on Mars, a study done by MIT says the project may have to take a step back, at least to reconsider the mission’s technical feasibility.

"The total atmospheric pressure would drop, creating an oppressive environment that would hat would suffocate the first settler within an estimated 68 days," the researchers say.

Altogether 44 Indians, including 17 women, have been picked out of a pool of 705 people from various countries in Round 2 of Mars One astronaut-selection process. Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that wants to establish permanent human life on the Red Planet.

The Netherlands-based organisation had sent out a call for applicants willing to become the first human colonists on the Red Planet. More than 200,000 persons had initially expressed willingness.

In terms of numbers, India — with 44 candidates — ranks third after the US (204) and Canada (54). Apart from New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Raipur, some potential Martians are from small towns like Bareilly, Palakkad and Naigaon.

The MIT researchers developed a detailed settlement-analysis tool to assess the feasibility of the Mars One mission, and found that new technologies will be needed to keep humans alive on Mars.

“As the Mars One mission plan represents a dramatic departure from more conservative exploration approaches, there are many uncertainties in the mission design. The establishment of a colony on Mars will rely on in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and life support technologies that are more capable than the current state of the art.

"Moreover, resupply logistics and sparing will play a large role in the proposed colony, though the magnitude and behavior of these two effects is not well understood,” says the MIT study titled An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan.

Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdrop could not be contacted for his comment on the study.

An official spokesperson of Mars One said, "The mission design has been discussed with engineering teams from aerospace companies like Paragon Space Development and Lockheed Martin. These engineers have actually been building these systems and each team we talked to is leading in the world. Our current mission design is the result of our own studies and their feedback and we are very confident that our budgets, timelines and requirements are feasible."

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