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Mars One plans human settlement on the Red Planet by 2023 (now 2027)

Charles Black, Founder and CEO of Sen
Oct 18, 2012, 7:00 UTC

Sen—Mars One, a Dutch organisation, is aiming to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet. The mission, to be funded from the sale of broadcasting rights, would see the first 4 settlers arrive on Mars in 2023 [Editor's note: in March 2015 Mars One announced that 2027 would be the target date. All other dates in this feature have been subsequently changed. For a recent blog on the topic see "What next for Mars One?"]

The Mars One vision belongs to entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp and scientist Arno Wielders. They believe that if they can build a human settlement on Mars there will be sufficient money from broadcasting to finance the mission. As well as television shows documenting the build up, astronaut selection process and journey to Mars, video would be streamed continuously from the surface as soon as the first Mars One rover lands. 

The founders say "As with the Apollo Moon landings, a human mission to Mars will inspire generations to believe that all things are possible, that anything can be achieved."

A feasability study has been completed, considering the technical, social and economic aspects of the mission, and the company has secured a number of sponsors. Bas Lansdorp told Sen: "with more than ten corporate sponsors secured, Mars One has moved to the next phase of preparing contracts with our suppliers and the astronaut selection procedure."

The astronaut selection process is due to begin in 2013, and the company plans to have 40 astronauts trained for the mission, though only 4 would make the first journey.

To help with astronaut training and to test equipment, Mars One plan to build a replica of the proposed Mars village on Earth. The astronaut selection process and life in the replica Mars settlement would be televised to generate funding for the project.

According to the Mars One roadmap, a demonstration mission carrying proof of concept for some of the technologies and a communication satellite would be launched in January 2016. The communication satellite would arrive in orbit in October 2016 and would be able to relay images and videos from the surface of the Red Planet back to Earth.  

The first settlement rover should arrive on the Red Planet in 2018, tasked to find the right location to establish the Martian village. Mission planners believe that the ideal settlement site would be far enough north for the soil to contain water, equatorial enough for maximum solar power and flat enough for construction of the village. Once the ideal site is located, the rover would prepare the ground for the arrival of cargo supplies.

Mars One supply ship

Illustration of a Mars One supply ship. Credit: Mars One/Bryan Versteeg

In 2021 six landers would arrive at Mars carrying two living pods, two life support units and two supply units. These would launch from Earth in July 2020 and arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021. 

Mars One rover

Illustration of a Mars One rover. Credit: Mars One/Bryan Versteeg

Water, oxygen and atmosphere production would be ready in 2022. Oxygen production would be derived from the water in Martian soil which would be extracted by evaporation, and the constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen would be distilled from the water. Oxygen would also be generated from the plant systems.

In April 2022 the components of the Mars Transit Vehicle would be launched into Earth orbit for assembly by a crew that would be carried aboard one of the components. The componets making up the Mars Transit Vehicle would be a Transit Habitat, where the chosen few would live during the journey, a Mars Lander and two propellant stages to power the spacecraft on its way to Mars. An assembly crew would connect the Transit Habitat with the Mars Lander, as well as the propellant stages.

Once the spacecraft had been assembled, the first Mars One crew would launch into Earth orbit and board the vehicle, taking the place of the assembly crew.

If all goes to plan the Mars Transit Vehicle would set course for a 210 day flight to Mars in 2022, arriving in 2023. Mars One expects, given the timescale, that these four explorers would be the first humans to set foot on our neighbouring planet.

Once on the planet the settlers would live in the living units. Food production units and would be solar powered. Each lander has about 10 metres squared of living area and each inflatable living area about 100 metres squared.

The second group of four astronauts, dubbed Mars Team Two, would leave Earth in October 2024 and arrive in 2025.

If Mars One achieves its ambitions it will see humans become a multi-planetary species.

The Mars One team have met with potential suppliers for all the components they envisage and have interest from at least one supplier in each area. They envisage using SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, currently being developed, to launch cargo to Mars. Astronauts would probably travel to the planet aboard a crewed version of SpaceX's Dragon. Elon Musk is known to support a multi-planetary vision and hopes to develop Dragon into a vehicle that can carry humans to Mars.

The company has established a special advisory committee which has attracted a number of space experts including Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund (USA / NL), a lead investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr Gino Ormeno (Peru), an Aviation Medical Examiner, Steve Carsey (UK), a television executive, Dr Raye Kass (USA), an expert in crew selection and group development, Professor Thais Russomano (Brazil), an expert in Aerospace Medicine & Space Physiology and Dr Christopher P. McKay (USA), an expert in Planetary Scientist, Space Science Division, NASA Ames and Dr John D Rummel who has chaired COSPAR’s Panel on Planetary Protection since 1999.

Mars One has secured several sponsors including: Byte Internet, VBC Notarissen, MeetIn,, Dejan SEO, Adknowledge, a performance-based marketing company, Intrepid Research & Development, an engineering company, Gerald W. Driggers, author of The Earth-Mars Chronicles.