Může Mars One kolonizovat rudé planety?

Can Mars One colonise the red planet?

 

Běží na guardian.co.ukTento článek s názvem “Může Mars One kolonizovat rudé planety?” napsal Andrew Smith, pro The Guardian v sobotu 30. května 2015 10.00 UTC

Kdy NASA první vozítko stanoveny na povrchu Marsu v 1997, jeho proudily barevných obrázků způsobila předčasné internetovou senzaci. Po staletích snění, Zde jsme byli, ve výši očí do našeho nejbližšího souseda potenciálně obyvatelné, a ten pohled byl stejně pochmurně majestátní, jak jsme mohli představit: skalnatý, red Desertscape na stupnici od zcela cizí na Zemi. jeden horský, Olympus Mons, byl největší v naší sluneční soustavě (trojnásobek výšky Everestu, s půdorysem o velikosti Švédska); duna-zametl moří jeho severní polokouli, zatímco 7km-hluboké kaňony plísní na jih.

Sledování na neohrabaný stolním počítači v nizozemském univerzitní město Twente, 20-První myšlenka letý Bas Lansdorp byl jedním z úžasu; Jeho druhý touhy ("Chci tam jít!"), pak melancholie uvědomění si, že, bytost Dutch, nikdy mohl létat s NASA. Takže musel by to udělat sám.

Co je to za člověka si myslí, že takové bizarní myšlenky, pak se snaží, aby se jim v reálném? Osmnáct let později, Lansdorp a já se ve vlaku na cestě do Heathrow, diskutovat Mars One, skutečnou společností s reálnými investory a začínající astronaut výcvikový program, zatímco naše spolucestující mlčet a předstírat, že škvor. Lansdorp má příkrý, crystal-eyed pozitivita; chlapecký šarm vidíte v mnoha podnikatelů, kteří, kombinoval s jeho holandského přízvuku, z něj dělá zdá upřímný a přesvědčivý. Pořád to samé, Žena vedle mě byl zíral na stejné obrazovce chytrého telefonu k minulosti 10 zápis, a její myšlenka bublina čte: "Ten člověk mluví o tom jít na Mars. Již brzy. Jako by to znamená,. Sním?"

Lansdorp začal přemýšlet o Marsu jako intelektuální cvičení, koníček: jak by soukromě financovaná mise Mars vlastně funguje? Věděl, že když George Bush Sr nařízeno NASA stojí výlet na počátku 90. let, se vrátili s číslem 0bn, po kterém člověk jezdit na Mars se stal šílený strýc v kůlně prostoru. Jedním z NASA inženýr jsem mluvil s identifikovala "zachichotáním faktor" navštěvuje jeho velmi zmínit v agentuře.

Postupně, ačkoli, Lansdorp přišel věřit, tam byl způsob, jak lomítko náklady tím, že souhlasí s jednoduchou pravdu: že nejtěžší část cesty Mars nehodlá, ale vrací. Nix návrat a vaše tech problémy odpadly, do té míry, že by byla vyžadována žádná nová technologie. Pro orgánu veřejné moci, jako je NASA, takový skok by bylo politicky nemyslitelné. Ale pro soukromě financovaný - proč ne? Najednou, Lansdorp mluvil o podniku nikdo neodvážil ani diskutabilní: osada Mars Mise, pro mld, malá změna vládám a rostoucí kádr jednotlivců.

Lansdorp dokončil jeho postgraduální studium ve strojírenství a založil firmu obnovitelné energie, Ampyx Power, který slíbil klouzání větrných generátorů a obliby u spekulativních investorů (stroje ještě nebyla postavena). On také zamiloval a začal přemýšlet o rodině. Pak, v 2010, přítel mu poslal papír touto Britský fyzik Paul Davies, plovoucí myšlenku jednosměrné Mars mise. "Dívej se, že jsem ukradl nápad,"Přítel zažertoval.

Bylo to teď nebo nikdy. Lansdorp začaly uvažovat model financování na základě vysílacích práv a reklamy. Pokud Premier League, Olympiáda a realita televizní pořady byly miliardové, jakou cenu misi Mars a zaručena publikum ... všichni na Zemi? Osm miliard párů bulvy by si koupil několik raket, ne oni?

***

Lansdorp je tvrdý muž postřehnutelné. Mám podezření, že je to částečně způsobeno rozpolcenosti směrem k médiím, která je stále podezřelý z něho (a jak můžete nemůže být podezřelé z chlapa, který nemá žádné rakety ani skafandry ale říká, že je pryč na Mars brzy); a částečně kvůli trestajícího hledat i další investice. Když se setkáme, Minulý týden ho neviděl pendluje mezi USA, Kanada, Austrálie, Nizozemsko a Londýn.

Kde jeho prvním kole investoři byli většinou angel investoři, 30-liché bohatí jednotlivci a tři nebo čtyři společnosti, které nevyžadují návratnost svých investic, druhé kolo financování tradičně zahrnuje tvrzeného profesionály, kteří očekávají zisk v rámci dohodnutého časového rámce. Bod, ve kterém Mars Jeden může oznámit podporu z těchto kluků je bod, ve kterém nemáme jinou možnost, než ji brát vážně. A tento bod, Lansdorp říká, Nachází se v blízkosti.

Mars: Bas Lansdorp
Mars One je Bas Lansdorp: "Děti budou chtít být kosmonauti, ne popové hvězdy. Vzhledem k tomu, že to bude super věc za ". Fotografie: Manuel Vazquez pro Guardian

Jeho plán je toto: První, poslat osm uncrewed rakety, plněné zařízením, materiálů a roboty sestavit základnu, 2,000 čtverečních stop životní a pracovní prostor, postavený raketových kapslí a tvrdých nafukovacích. Rakety by s největší pravděpodobností pocházejí z celé řady vyvinuté Elon Musk u SpaceX; od 2027, oni začnou vysílat osadníky, poslal v týmech ze čtyř každé dva roky. Lansdorp vyzval dobrovolníky v 2013, a v únoru oznámil svou první várku úspěšných kandidátů - Mars 100. příští rok na jaře, the 100 sejdou týmové cvičení, a 24 na plný úvazek stážisty vzejde.

Lansdorp kritici věří, že toto vše je příliš dobré, aby to byla pravda. Koncem loňského roku, Tým výzkumníků na Massachusetts Institute of Technology (S) tvrdil, že Mars One posádka zemře 68 dny po přistání: vybavením potřebným pro vyvážení jejich hladiny kyslíku prostě neexistuje. (Mars Jeden odpověděl, že potenciální problém by byl vyřešen v čase.) Ukázalo se, že dohoda nemůže být dosaženo s produkční televizní společnost vybrána otočit misi do show, divize UK výrobců Big Brother Endemol. (Lansdorp říká další výrobní společnost byla v místě od listopadu, ale že údaje jsou obchodně citlivé.) Další smlouva, s americkou firmou Lockheed Martin letectví a kosmonautiku, Také propadl, nutit zpoždění dva roky v plánovaném startu, na 2027. (Lansdorp říká, že má smlouvu s Paragon Space Development Corporation v Arizoně, která navrhla podpůrné systémy Mars One je, a nyní pracuje na skafandrech. Paragon to potvrzuje.)

více ničivá, mladý Dublin akademický s PhD v oboru fyziky a astrofyziky, Joseph Roche, řekl v březnu, že on byl odcházející 100: ne jen byl výběrový proces směšně neadekvátní, provedeno prostřednictvím on-line formulářů a Skype, ale Lansdorp zasáhla kandidáty na "poplatků za zpracování" a odměňovat ty, kteří si koupili zboží (plakáty, samolepky, Trička). Začalo to vypadat, jako kdyby fatwa, varuje muslimy, že účast na Mars One činil k sebevraždě a sin, bylo to nejmenší problémy Lansdorp je.

Ale on trvá na tom, jeho motivy jsou skutečné. "Jednou z velkých věcí, Mars, jíž lze dosáhnout,"Říká, "je to, jako když Neil Armstrong a Buzz Aldrin přistáli na Měsíci, pokud se lidé jít na Mars, děti budou chtít být astronauty a vědci a inženýři znovu, namísto popových hvězd. Vzhledem k tomu, že to bude super věc bude. Právě teď, to není."

Takže on by trumf X Factor s Mars faktor? "Bylo by to víc než to,"Říká. "Pokud to má za následek 10% Další vědci nebo inženýři, to zvyšuje šanci na kreslení v brilantní mozky musíme řešit věci, jako je změna klimatu a krmení svět. Nic spojuje lidi jako společný projekt. "

Chcete-li koupit svobodu pracovat na plný úvazek na Marsu, Lansdorp prodal své akcie Ampyx. Říkám mu, že bych chtěl být mouchou na zdi v noci řekl své přítelkyni, Nyní matka jeho syna, o tom. Směje se. "Dobře, před tímto, Dělal jsem ve vzduchu větrné energie, měj na paměti. A když jsem opustil své PhD zahájit svou první firmu, Vzpomínám si, jak zpustošen moje maminka byla. Moje přítelkyně ví, že mám přijít s ambiciózními věcmi a pokusit se je realizovat. A teď jsme se platy po dobu dvou let, Pro tým 10. Nikdo na Marsu jeden je v ní pro peníze, ale je to pravda. "

There is an ingenious rival plan to get to Mars, detailed by the aerospace engineer and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin in his 1996 book The Case For Mars. He proposes a series of return missions to different locations on the red planet, in a programme he costs at bn-30bn. Wouldn’t it be smarter to spend the money on Zubrin’s more politically saleable (because it includes a return trip) alternative? Lansdorp says not. První, he reminds me that launching rockets on Earth is difficult and dangerous, and requires hundreds of experts – so imagine the problems of trying to do so with a few crew on Mars, after the machine has travelled 50m miles and been thrown around during launch and landing. He also doubts Zubrin’s cost estimate: “Because of the new technology his plan would require, it’s a longer timeline, so I wouldn’t know how to finance it. Our investors are already on the edge with the 10-year timeline we have.”

Lansdorp points out that we don’t yet know how to land 10-tonne payloads in the red planet’s thin atmosphere, let alone a 100-tonne return launch system (to understand the depth of this challenge, go to Nasa’s website and watch the video “Curiosity’s Seven Minutes Of Terror”, which animates the hair-raising machinations of a system necessary just to land the Mini-sized rover). Which could mean that Nasa, with its vague pedestrian plan to orbit Mars in the 2030s and maybe land in the 2040s, is right: we’re simply not technologically or politically there yet, and the new Mars rush is all a lot of hot air.

Lansdorp insists that, even if a return trip were practical, he wouldn’t go for it. “It’s such a waste of money and effort! There’s a whole world to be built – there’s work for centuries on Mars. Why send people who want to go for a holiday, when there are 200,000 applicants who don’t need to go back? You can send 10 settlement missions for the cost of one return. If you go for that option, the first mission will always be 20 years away, as it’s been since the 1960s.”

***

Who signs up for a one-way ticket to Mars? Clare Weedon is a whip-smart 27-year-old IT systems expert, curious and empathic, with opal-blue eyes and a pierced lip. We meet in a cafe in London, where she speaks excitedly about a forthcoming holiday chasing tornados in the American midwest. Becoming an astronaut was never part of her plan: when her brother sent her a link to Lansdorp’s call for astronauts, her first thought was, “Is this for real?” But she applied anyway. It was only at round two, a form that took most of a day to complete, that she started to take the prospect seriously. Asked to describe an experience of cultural awkwardness and how it was resolved, she recalled the time she (a pescetarian) and a vegetarian friend had lodged with an elderly, non-English-speaking Spanish couple who cooked them wonderful meaty meals; they managed a difficult situation with enough aplomb to be invited back. Prompted for a frightening incident, Weedon remembered being stuck on an icy motorway for six hours.

Mars: Clare Weedon
Mars One candidate Clare Weedon: ‘My boyfriend and I have been together for six years. We’ve had a row about it’. Fotografie: Manuel Vazquez pro Guardian

Overseen by Mars One medical director Norbert Kraft, a veteran of the US, Russian and Japanese space programmes, the process aimed to slough off those who lacked the necessary application, intellect or self-awareness. From an initial 202,000, the candidates were reduced to 1,058; a routine medical, conducted by their own GPs, brought the numbers to a global 660. And then, 100. Mars One intends to repeat this selection process on an annual basis, delivering six fresh teams of four every year, leading to a pool of 100 by first flight.

Weedon was at her DJ boyfriend’s flat when she received an email headed “Congratulations!", which she opened with heart in mouth, palms sweating. “It was such a surreal feeling,"Říká. “I was totally stunned – just so excited! I bounded off the sofa and ran upstairs, screaming.”

Ryan MacDonald interviews Dr Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s medical director

Her boyfriend was less thrilled. What do her family and friends think about her desire to leave the planet? Her eyes flick to the floor. "To jo, it’s difficult. Myslím, my boyfriend and I have been together six years and we’ve not spoken about it since I got through to the last 100. We’ve had a row about it, but not spoken. I don’t know what to say.”

Does she understand how he feels? "To jo. Myslím, it’s not worth ruining our relationship if nothing’s going to come of it. But I also understand the turmoil of feeling that someone might just fuck off and leave you – and that’s horrible! Myslím, I’m laughing, but if I think about my situation…”

Does she share any of Roche’s reservations about Mars One? “I agree with some, but I totally disagree with others. I didn’t earn any points until last week, when I bought a T-shirt, so that part was bullshit. The points system means bugger all.”

Like everyone else, Weedon paid a £20 registration fee and thinks this fair. (“If you’re serious, what’s 20 quid?") As far as her suitability for a trip to Mars goes, she acknowledges that the process can at best have scratched the surface; but she contradicts Roche’s claim that applicants had been promised face-to-face interviews – and with a round-two cadre of 660 scattered across the globe, it’s hard to see how these interviews could have been conducted differently.

Weedon’s brother didn’t make it to the 100 a, until she did, no one else in the family knew they were applying. How did they react? “They’ve been great, opravdu. They can see the passion in my eyes and that there’s no holding me back, so they might as well support me.”

What awaits Weedon and her fellow pioneers, should Lansdorp raise the money? Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, the last rocky “terrestrial” world before the ethereal planets, the gas giants, take over. The distance between us varies with each opposition, ale 2003 saw Mars pull within 55m km of Earth, the closest it had been or would be again for 60,000 léta, during which it was the largest object in our sky – a ruby light you felt you could reach up and pluck from the night, then release again, like a firefly. Pořád to samé, where the moon takes two days to reach, Mars is six months away, with a return journey becoming available after only six months there: a long time to spend floating in a tin can.

The planet could scarcely be less appealing to a human. Freezing cold and arid, Mars is a uniform rusty red, coloured by the oxidised iron in its soil. The Martian day is 37 minutes longer than that of Earth, which will appear as a pinprick of light in a sky that contains two moons. Weedon won’t be going outside without a spacesuit, because the atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, and planet-swallowing dust storms can last for months. On the plus side, gravity is a third of Earth’s and water is far more plentiful than once thought, meaning that everything necessary for life, from air to water to metals and plastics, can be manufactured there. Yet life will be monotonous and hard.

The space geologist Peter Grindrod, a professor at Birkbeck College, Londýn, is part of a Europe-wide panel tasked with choosing a landing site for the European Space Agency’s UK-built ExoMars rover, which is scheduled to land and drill two metres below the surface in 2018. In his Bloomsbury HQ, Grindrod shows me photographs of sweeping Martian landscapes that make me ache to go. Like most scientists I consult, Grindrod is a Mars One sceptic. “Who would you want to spend the rest of your life with?” he asks. “Somebody who’s decided to give up everything and die on another planet? I saw one guy interviewed who had a wife and three children, and a reporter asked him, ‘What will you say when your daughter asks you, Daddy, why aren’t you going to come back? Would you change your mind?’ And he said, ‘Well, she’d be upset, ale ne, I’d still go.’”

***

Alison Rigby’s reaction to making the round two group of 1,058 was “ecstatic”, tempered by the fact that her partner didn’t get through. In a south London pub near her home, the 35-year-old lab technician and avowed science geek recalls the moment. “I said, ‘Should I continue?’ and he said, ‘Yes, ano, yes – look what you’ve done already! Keep going, I’ll apply next time.’”

Then came the news she’d made the final 100. “I was shaking. I could not do anything. I was, jako, ‘They chose me? ?’ I’m a pragmatist, and obviously the odds were against me, so I’d been convincing myself that I wouldn’t be selected and working out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Od té doby, they’ve explained the criteria and I was like, "Oh, OK! I was a shoo-in!' "

At the Skype interview stage, everyone was asked the same thing: three knowledge-based questions, to see if candidates had learned the material they’d been sent, and five interconnected general ones. Perhaps the trickiest of these came last and sounded innocuous: “If, after three years on Mars, you had the chance to come home, would you?” I would have fallen at this hurdle – who knows how they would feel about anything after three years on Mars – but the correct answer is no, because not only would you be abandoning your team, but your physiology would have adapted, with radical bone and muscle loss making a return to Earth inadvisable.

How have Rigby’s family taken the news? "Dobře, we’re still very close,"Říká, “but this has become an issue for them. Myslím, it was a big step for me to move down to London from Blackpool. My dad’s very proud of me, but sad to think of the implications. My mum’s more against it: I’m her only daughter and she wants me nearby. I think she’d say, ‘It’s more important to think about your family than yourself.’ And I’d go, ‘I’d love to, Mum, but I can’t.’”

How does she reconcile that? “By saying that what I’ll be doing is more important to more people than just my family. And while my family is really important, this is important for the whole world.”

She points to rocket designer Wernher von Braun’s words about the first moon landing being humanity’s biggest moment “since life crawled out of the slime”. “Surely the Mars mission will be an equally big step,” Rigby says. “This won’t just be flags and photographs, this is a settlement mission and people will be able to look up and see there are actually humans on Mars. Which makes the world seem so much smaller.”

Mars: Alison Rigby
Mars One candidate Alison Rigby: ‘A mission to Mars might break us out of our ennui, our powerlessness’. Fotografie: Manuel Vazquez pro Guardian

Standing on a dusty red desert plain, gazing up at a speck of light, knowing it’s Earth and that there is no hope of returning, strikes me as the loneliest and most desolate feeling. But both Rigby and Weedon are uncowed by it. No one has left Earth’s orbit since 1972 and no one has ever ploughed beyond the moon into deep space, let alone for good. There’s also the question of why?

"To jo. Somebody tweeted me, ‘Why do you want to go to Mars when we have so many problems here on Earth? Shouldn’t you stay and fix them?' "

Co, you personally? “Ha! Exactly! řekl jsem, ‘Shall we change mankind and then go to Mars, or shall we be bold and change mankind podle going to Mars?’ The way I see it, we need a new vision, a new purpose. Even if Mars One doesn’t make it, it has definitely stoked the fires of exploration again. And if they do, or if Nasa does, if they choose an international crew and make it humanity’s mission to Mars, it will have a very big coalescing effect. It might break us out of the ennui that has descended, where we feel powerless.”

People predicted the same thing when the Apollo lunar missions brought back the first whole Earth photos, but Rigby thinks the psychology of a Mars mission will be different. “You’ll leave, then you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be, a planet – but it’s a different planet this time.”

We talk about the defection of Roche (who declined my interview requests). It turns out his criticisms had a curious effect on the rest of the 100, drawing them together as they formulated a response that Mars One management seemed unable to provide. “We left it for a day and thought, ‘Well, let’s see what Mars One has to say about this.’ Because we were expecting the hammer to fall.”

When the hammer didn’t fall, 76 members of the Mars 100 community group, a secure online forum, stepped up to post very effective retorts on YouTube (Ryan MacDonald’s 10 Reasons Mars One Is NOT A Scam demolishes the arguments one by one). A closeness began to form. Rigby asked a couple of European candidates to stay with her and meet fellow travellers. “It’s a wonderful resource,” she says of the forum, “a place where we can express our feelings without worrying about them slipping out or anything. The only slight worry is it’s taking us away from the public forums like the Facebook groups, so our presence there isn’t as strong as it was. But the issues we have to discuss are quite pressing.”

In this sense, the candidates are already pulling away from their lives on Earth. Clare Weedon pointed out that standing on the surface of the Moon was like being in space, because there is no atmosphere, whereas Mars will feel distinct, like a planet; domov. pokud ano,, someone will have to get there before we’ll know whether that feels liberating, or crushingly claustrophobic.

***

With so many problems here on Earth, can there be any justification for spending billions of dollars on Mars? Some people think so and, significantly, one of them is the PayPal/SpaceX impresario Elon Musk. When I visited him at SpaceX’s factory in Los Angeles in 2013, he made no bones about the motivation behind SpaceX: it is to colonise Mars.

“Fundamentally, there are two reasons to go to Mars,” he explained. “One is defensive, as a form of life insurance, of preserving life, which we know can be wiped out by catastrophic events [such as comet strikes and supervolcano eruptions]. And the other is that it will be the greatest adventure ever. I am motivated more by the second, that it would be a fantastic adventure, even for those who don’t want to go. Just as with the moon, it was only a handful of people who went, but in a sense all of humanity went there with them. And I’m hopeful we can do it with better life expectancy than the original English colonists in America!"

Meet the people on a mission to be first on the red planet… and stay there – video

Musk wants to go himself, he told me, but expects to have the option of coming back. Of Mars One, he has been dismissive, telling MIT students last October, "Dobře, the plan I’ve seen has them buying a bunch of Dragon capsules a Falcon 9 rockets to go to Mars. That’s cool, if they want to buy our rockets, I’ll certainly sell them – though I don’t think they’ve got anywhere near the funding to buy even one. But trying to go to Mars in a Dragon… that’s a long time to spend in something with the interior volume of an SUV.”

Later this year, Musk hopes to unveil designs for his own Mars Colonial Transporter, a craft capable of taking large numbers of people there. Whether through him or Lansdorp, it looks increasingly likely someone will go in my lifetime, a proposition that, even three years ago, looked laughable.

Lansdorp remains convinced that a whimsical tech billionaire will appear in time to get training and hardware off the ground – and he may be right. The sudden return of interest in human space exploration is in part a symptom of the displacement of state by corporate power: Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and computer game designer John Carmack have all poured personal riches into space companies.

Are Mars One’s investors being naive in buying Lansdorp’s untried business plan? “It’s interesting as a thought experiment,” the Mars Society’s Robert Zubrin tells me. “I mean, Lansdorp doesn’t have bn, but Nasa does and in terms of going only one way – hey, we’re all on a one-way trip to somewhere! But I think it’s utterly fantastical that you’ll fund a Mars mission with a reality TV show.”

A Nasa insider who asks not to be named is more specific: "Dívej se, I support any initiative that’s trying to get to Mars, and I wish them nothing but the best. Their business plan – selling it as a reality TV show is clever, but I don’t think it’s going to be sustainable. Proč? What makes a good reality TV show? Tension, conflict, difficulty – all the things you’re wanting to avoid. And you don’t want to be sending four kooky divas to Mars! Pak, even if you do, the one thing we know about reality TV ratings is they go down over time, so as broadcasters lose interest, who’s going to keep those people alive? The technology won’t be ready for them to be self-sustainable for quite some time, so what if the show’s cancelled? Is someone going to cough up bn to save four people? Really? And what if the astronauts decide to turn off the cameras?"

Born 29 years ago to British parents in South Africa, Mars One candidate Alexandra Doyle put herself through law school by moonlighting as an orthodontic nurse and now lives in the Midlands, where she works on the tills at Tesco, as a receptionist/sales consultant at a gym and as a film and TV extra. Last weekend she came to London to meet with other candidates, including Rigby’s guests from Spain and Denmark, and found the experience inspiring; she is thinking about applying for a degree in Space Exploration Systems at Leicester, if she doesn’t end up in full-time training.

Doyle’s enthusiasm for the Mars One experience thus far, which she describes as “probably the best and strangest of my life”, is hard to gainsay. To my desolation at the thought of leaving Earth, she counters, “I don’t know if it means I’m incredibly strange, but that moment where you’ve worked hard and you’re moving away from Earth and you’re never coming back… It sounds horrible, but to me that’s just amazing. And a lot of people have said, ‘Don’t you appreciate Earth? Are you not happy here? What are you trying to get away from?’ Fair enough, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s so much about the Earth that I love, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something else out there. A whole new way of life, a whole new existence. It’s a huge thing to get your head around, but as soon as you hear about it, I think your gut reaction tells you whether this is something you find awe-inspiring or that makes you feel sick. It’s built into our DNA, to imagine what else might be there and keep pushing the boundaries.”

For all her pragmatism, nicméně, there is a point in the conversation when the emotion wells up. "To jo. It’s funny, není to?” Doyle says. “On paper I can be quite analytical, but whenever I chat to somebody about this, have a proper conversation, I get really emotional. It’s such a huge thing to contemplate.”

How many of this initial Mars 100 will make it there in 2027, if Mars One succeeds? Lansdorp reveals that he and medical director Kraft disagree on what to expect from the first group. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of their first group drop out along the way,” he admits. “No one has ever selected for a Mars mission that lasts a lifetime, so it’s not only the risk that people will get ill or change their minds, it’s also the risk that the groups we choose won’t be good enough. The first crew is really about keeping the team together and overcoming the challenges they will find – together.”

His intention is to have between three and five teams ready for each launch, choosing which one to send at the last moment. “Because I wouldn’t be surprised if the team we’ve selected climbs the tower to the rocket and at that moment one of them decides to drop out.”

What about him – is he still desperate to go? “Absolutely,"Říká, and pauses. “I have a son who is 18 months old and for me this changed my life completely. I would never leave him while he is young. But before I had my son, I wouldn’t have hesitated a second to go, if I had the idea that I was the right guy for the job.”

Wait a minute. He doesn’t think he’s the right guy? "Ne! Psychologically, I am absolutely the wrong person to be in such a small team for such a long time.”

How so? “I am stubborn, impatient, unwilling to take no for an answer. These are great qualities for an entrepreneur, but terrible for an astronaut working in a small team. I am absolutely the wrong person to be in the first wave of settlers.”

Will Mars One make it? The attrition rate among startup companies is huge; for those with ambitions to colonise space, we don’t even have a measure. But what Lansdorp, Musk and others have done is reopen a conversation that had died. Somewhere on Earth, právě teď, the first human to set foot on Mars is probably among us.

@wiresmith
• Photographs shot on location at sciencemuseum.org.uk


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