Mars One: this non-profit organization wants to establish a colony on the Red Planet, beginning with flying 4 astronauts there by the year 2023. The organization wants to make a very big deal out of this, advertising the event and the selection process on a global scale. But it involves no plans to bring the original astronauts, or any additional colonists they send in their direction, back to Earth.
- OPINION: Lots of risk, lots of reward. If the plan was a little less flashy – why publicize the already historic event to an obnoxious degree? – and perhaps considered sending the astronauts back home over some prolonged period of time, it’d seem sounder.
Elon Musk‘s Mars colony: Elon Musk is the CEO of the Tesla car company, as well as the founder of spaceflight firm SpaceX. In 2012, the billionaire announced his plan to launch 10 or so colonists to Mars on an enormous, reusable rocket. He will charge individuals interested in becoming the original colonists $500,000 each to board the spacecraft, and imagines the colony growing to roughly 80,000 people.
- OPINION: Using a reusable rocket seems a practical and intelligent idea; it’ll likely cost more to make than the conventional rocket, but it’ll also last longer than the conventional rocket. Though, I do not think the astronauts should have to pay such a large sum to become colonists on Mars; who boards the ship should depend more heavily on qualifications and zeal for the job and adventure.
Mars Direct: Developed by head of Mars society Robert Zubrin, this plan would fly astronauts to Mars using the country’s current advanced launch technology. Once on the Red Planet, the astronauts can generate oxygen and rocket fuel from the thin atmosphere and water and mineral resources from the planet’s soil. While there, their activities can be monitored by a nuclear reactor. This plan aims to be affordable and encourage human self-sufficiency.
- OPINION: Appears to be a very thoroughly outlined plan, though it also seems to be a highly vulnerable one. The plan demands that the astronauts create their own resources from an unexplored planet that scientists know little about, but perhaps enough about to believe that they can survive. Much can go right, but more can go wrong.
NASA (duh!): For years now, NASA’s primary long-term goal has been to land astronauts on Mars. Currently, the agency is in the process of sending Americans to an asteroid hovering near the Earth by 2025, and then finally to the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s. Over the last 15 years, NASA has been launching technologically advanced robots to Mars. Despite this, without experts studying the red soil themselves, there’s much difficulty in definitively knowing whether or not the planet harbors or ever harbored life.
- OPINION: By ‘vicinity,’ NASA isn’t promising boots on the ground. It’s promising exploration of the planet’s moons at the very least, and a journey to this small, red planet, but not boots on the ground. Still, this plan is spearheaded by President Obama himself. And, when in doubt, it’s never unwise to consider plans arranged by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Inspiration Mars: the nonprofit organization wants to send two individuals – optimally individuals who are married – on a drive-by of the planet. That is to say, neither the couple nor the craft would actually make contact with the planet’s surface; they would just zoom within 100 miles of it.
- OPINION: Though we wouldn’t actually get to explore Mars, we would have traveled farther than ever before, spurring expansion into the unknown. At the same time, it’s the only plan that soundly rejects humans stepping foot on Mars. Can enough be accomplished in merely driving past it to merit the trip’s finances and consumption of time and resources?