Mars One Facing Problems, May Be Delayed for at Least Two Years
Mars One recently announced their decision to narrow down their shortlist to 100 hopefuls, but they may not want to strap on their spacesuits just yet. According to a new report, Mars One is facing several technical difficulties and may need to delay the entire mission for at least two years.
According to the current timeline of the Mars One mission, the company will first send an unmanned probe to the Red Planet in 2018 in order to test the equipment before risking human lives. That first mission would take advantage of a relatively brief window of opportunity in which Mars is aligned with Earth in such a way that the journey would be relatively short.
But now, SpaceNews reports that both Lockheed Martin, who devised the concept study, and Surrey Satellites, who designed the Mars orbiter, have stopped work on the mission and have not made further contracts with Mars One. Although both companies stated that this is not necessarily unusual, neither has heard anything about any follow-up work. Although the proposed launch is three years away, the development, testing, and planning would need to start very soon in order to complete the preparation in time. If Mars One doesn't have a functional orbiter by their deadline in 2018, there won't be another window of opportunity until 2020.
"If we cannot make this deadline we are always flexible in moving another two years," said Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp. "That's a decision that we will have to make before the summer."
Unfortunately, even if this issue is resolved by 2018 or 2020, it might be the least of Mars One's problems. Multiple reports have come out recently which claim that the mission is simply unfeasible, most notably a detailed feasibility report from MIT. According to this report, the settlers would indeed be able to create a breathable environment on Mars, but then would be required to grow so many plants in order to feed themselves, it would lead to excess oxygen. This excess oxygen would not only be a severe fire hazard, but would slowly suffocate the settlers, with the first settler projected to die within 68 days.
Mars One's CEO responded to the paper, claiming that the technology to vent the excess oxygen would be ready by the time the manned mission launches in 2022, but it still doesn't look promising.
One of the other major issues is the cost. They estimate that the mission will cost $6 billion for the initial mission and then $4 billion for resupply missions, but many have claimed that this is not at all feasible. The resupply mission costs will become prohibitive, and although Mars One has announced plans to offset the cost with a reality television show, they do not yet have a partner network. Even more concerning, the hype surrounding the mission does not seem to be enough to sustain a reality show, at least not one popular enough to significantly offset the astronomical costs. There has been some attention, but Mars One offered media outlets the opportunity to buy exclusive rights to interviews with the candidates for Mars One, and no one took it, which is a pretty bad sign.