5 February 2009
Imagine you were given the chance of a lifetime: you would launch on the largest rocket ever created, on a daring mission never before attempted. Like the arrow from a marksman’s bow, your rocket would fly unfaltering through space for six months. For six months you would communicate with Earth, monitor your progress, and fight the atrophy of microgravity. And then your travels would culminate in seven minutes of scorching plasma, g-forces and radio static. Finally, you would don your space-suit, open the airlock and step out onto the frigid, ruddy surface of Mars: your new home.
Every human being back on Earth would be swept up in your historic voyage. Your first step onto the Red Planet would become the pinnacle of human acheivement. As you explored your landing site, studied the rocks, analyzed the sampled in the laboraory onboard your ship, you would revolutionize our understanding of Mars, and help to solve the question of whether there ever was life there (before you, that is).
So, given that opportunity to achieve the impossible, a sure place in history, and the possibility of solving some of the most outstanding questions in science, would you go if you couldn’t come back? Would you be willing to forgo the comforts of life on the Earth for the chance to leave your mark on history forever?
It’s a compelling question, and as I read this excellent article by James McLane at Search Magazine, it’s the very question I was asking myself. I don’t know my answer. But I do know this, as McLane says, the person who undertook a one-way journey to Mars would surpass fame, would surpass even history. They would become legend.
McLane makes an excellent case for a one-way mission to Mars. It is technologically far more feasible than a round trip. Great science could be done, and resupply from Earth would allow the mission to potentially last a long time. You could still communicate with Earth, so despite the solitude, you could hear and see loved ones and friends left behind. And public interest in space would skyrocket. The Mission to Mars would be the topic of every discussion. Families would gather around the TV to watch the latest report from the daring Martian(s), and, I suspect, there would be thousands of volunteers for the next mission.
Whether any agency would be willing to make such a bold move, I don’t know. I think it’s doubtful. But it is excellent food for thought, and McLane’s article is well worth reading. Go check it out, and then come back here and tell me: Would you go?