back to article How to make boots on Mars affordable - One way trips

One of the main limiting factors on a manned mission to Mars is the fact that, under normal assumptions, much of the stuff that travelled to the red planet would not be concerned with exploration but rather with bringing the crew back to Earth. The solution? According to two scientists, it would make more sense for the first …


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  1. Dazed and Confused

    tackling the pension crisis

    how to deal with an ageing population

    1. Glenn Charles


      "Also, despite a lot of searching, nobody has managed to actually find any life on the red planet - and quite bluntly in any case concern over possible Martian microbes shouldn't prevent the human race acquiring its survival insurance policy." Make that indigenes...


  2. Uwe Dippel
    Thumb Up



    I'd love to join them. No, not for Mars, but for their smoking sessions.

  3. Ian 62

    Sign me up

    After a day like today with the pointy haired bosses doing their best to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.... Where do I sign up?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I'd sign up to

      If only to get away from the misses

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Why not...

        just send the missus?

      2. AndrueC Silver badge

        This is not, repeat not, a title

        You'd get rid of the misses and keep the hits?

  4. Tom7

    Food, water, air all very well.

    Yes yes yes, but how will they access Facebook? And where will they get beer?

    1. John G Imrie

      Not only that

      But imagine the lag while playing Call of Duty.

    2. mittfh

      Good point

      They say they'd have access to email etc., but as Earth and Mars orbit at different rates, without relay satellites between the two planets, data speeds would be significantly less at apoapsis (when Mars is furthest to Earth) than periapsis (when Mars is closest). Even with relay / booster satellites, there'd still be a significant lag, even at periapsis.

      So email and usenet, yes. Facebook / VoIP / videoconfering, not likely! I suppose if a company like Google got involved in the project, then it might be possible to have a form of web access, with the relay satellites mirroring sites between an earth-based server and a Mars-based server.

      But as for the radiation issue, how feasible would it be to design a passenger compartment that had decent shielding - at least for the majority of the trek across space?

      1. Ammaross Danan

        RE: Good Point

        "They say they'd have access to email etc., but as Earth and Mars orbit at different rates, without relay satellites between the two planets, data speeds would be significantly less at apoapsis"

        Radio travels at the same speed, regardless if an intermediary satellite picks it up and rebroadcasts it. This only reduces the effect of attenuation. Relay satellites would be best used to increase transmission windows, and would have one (or more) in orbit around Mars and Earth.

        "So email and usenet, yes. Facebook / VoIP / videoconfering, not likely!"

        Facebook would be the same as using email or usenet. Granted, the page loads would be horrendously slow (since you're limited to a pipe the width of 1/3 of a modem). Perhaps Opera Mini has finally found its niche! Just turn off images. But yes, VoIP and videoconferencing are off the table until a higher-speed transmission is set up, and no, it won't be in real-time.

        "But as for the radiation issue, how feasible would it be to design a passenger compartment that had decent shielding"

        This is why they said "beyond reproductive age." They don't intend to adaquately shield them from radiation. They expect reproductive capability to be nuked, as well as shortening the lifespan to 20 years (which means nothing to a 60yr-old, as they'd likely die near 80 anyway).

    3. hplasm

      Food water and air will be planned for-

      Facebook? For groundgrippers.

      Beer? There will always be beer. Even if it has to be wrung from the rocks, there will be beer. History has proven this.

  5. Jimmy Floyd

    Linguistic fail

    "To Boldly Go can be read in full..."

    They're clever enough to be classified as "boffins," yet are unable to spot a split infinitive!

    [Yes, I know: Gene Roddenberry had the same linguistic failure too.]

    1. Sean Baggaley 1

      The "split infinitive rule" is nothing of the kind.

      It's a myth, perpetuated by the more opinionated grammar fascists of yore who simply made some of this stuff up in order to make their petty "Laws of English Grammar" books look a little more substantial than a pamphlet. (Yes, Mr. Fowler, I'm looking at you.) It's a wholly subjective, aesthetic, judgement, nothing more.

      English does have rules, but, like ending a sentence with a preposition, the splitting of infinitives isn't one of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        To quote the Oxford Dictionary:

        Some people believe that split infinitives are grammatically incorrect and should be avoided at all costs .... But there’s no real justification for their objection, which is based on comparisons with the structure of Latin.

        So we *can* continue to boldly go with our heads held high.

      2. Dave Bell

        What Fowler said...

        Don't go by the current version of Fowler. What he wrote about split infinitives is much closer to your view than you seem to think. He made some odd choices, but was always very definite about the need for clarity.

        1. Muscleguy

          Fowler is a brand name

          My copy is the second edition by the OUP, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers. I recommend people read the article on Split Infinitives, the dry humour is wonderful. In short: if it trips easily off the tongue it is proper English, if it sounds tortured then the effort to avoid a Snark has lead you into a heffalump trap and all may laugh at you.

          1. Jimmy Floyd

            Repeated epic fail

            "...if it trips easily off the tongue it is proper English."

            What utter tosh. I should have known the readers of a techie website would have pitifully poor linguistic ability.

    2. The Indomitable Gall


      "to go" is not an infinitive. "go" is an infinitive.

      "to" is a pre-infinitival particle. Equivalents exist in practically all Indo-European languages.

      It just happens that as English lost the inflections that distinguished infinitives from finite conjugations, we started using the pre-infinitival particle as a substitute wherever we felt the unmarked infinitive would be potentially ambiguous.

  6. Zebulebu


    It'd be nice to stop fucking our own gaff up before we start fucking other planets up.

    1. Richard 81


      No it's perfect. There's nothing there to fuck up.

      1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        Man's ingenuity knows no bounds, doubly so when money is involved!

        There wasn't much in the various seas and deserts on this planet, but that didn't stop us turning up with loads of drilling equipment and screwing the local population, killing the local wildlife and fucking the place over for whatever financial gain could be raped, sorry reaped.

  7. zaax

    Sounds like a plan

    If we can't make faster than light drives, generational or sleeper ships are going to be the only way the human race will be able to visit other systems. So this seems to be the first sensible idea. And yes I want to go.

  8. Josh 15

    Where do I sign up for this?

    I can be packed and ready to go in less than an hour. Sound's like a great solution to the financial problems of making this whole Mars mission thing work. Consider my application in the post.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      Thanks, but...

      ...a basic knowledge of punctuation is a prerequisite.

  9. Bynar

    "Australia 2"

    Well they keep banging on about how the prisons are full....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't joke

      Once there is a colony on Mars, I can see this would seriously be considered... Very little need for security as you can't go anywhere if you did manage to get out of your cell.

      1. F111F


        Who needs cells when you're on a prison planet with no hope of ever escaping? That would mean guards, quarters for guards, food for guards, unions, etc. Just put them in one location on the far side of the planet with the same equipment/training as the colonists and it'd be centuries before they'd even have the resources to find each other's camp.

        1. hplasm


          To keep the rock beer safe!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Just don't give them a slingshot to send minerals back to Earth.

          Oh and definitely don't give them a supercomputer that might become sentient and help them!

          (Don't know what I'm talking about then you really ought to read more)

        3. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Cells?

          "'d be centuries before they'd even have the resources to find each other's camp."

          Ah. This'll be the "long game" version of "capture the flag" then?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "Very little need for security as you can't go anywhere if you did manage to get out of your cell."

        *What* cells? Australia was settled by lots of "Involuntary" migrants or "crims".

        With mass sensors able to weight the the entire Shuttle stack (in principle. I don't think it's actually done) to the nearest 1kg no one is leaving. It's about as secure as a Siberian labor camp. And would imply a political system rather similar to the one that set those up.

        Have you never read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Yes, I have.

          >Have you never read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

          Yes. One of RAH's better novels. Well - the AI is a bit silly and as with a lot of his work it's very 'cliquey' but it's a good read.

  10. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    I'd do it


  11. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The "Gobi Desert" question

    Q: Why don't people colonise the Gobi Desert?

    A: Because there's nothing there to live on, or work on, or export, or shelter in

    Yet it's a thousand times more hospitable than Mars and a million times cheaper to get to (plus, there's a good chance you could get back, too). So the tipping point of where people choose to live is set well and truly on the "land of milk and honey" side of the equation and a long, long way away from earthbound deserts and even further from Martian ones. What would the "colonists" do all day? Huddle inside their little shelters, wondering when or if the next supply rocket would arrive (or if they'd just see it go past as a flaming ball, crashing or missing them completely - as 50% of Mars-bound spacecraft do)? Press their noses up against the windows and count the number of rocks outside? Without a highly developed support structure, there's little possibility that they'd be in a position to mount expeditions to other parts of the planet, or go searching for signs of life, or even try to find one of the crashed or failed previous spacecraft.

    So far as the cost thing goes. Surely the cost of getting enough fuel for a return trip out to Mars is only higher than the cost of continual resupply if the people there are not expected to live very long. If they need (say) 1 ton of supplies sent every year then after a certain number of years, that amount of stuff will have exceeded the amount of stuff needed to bring them back. It sounds like a particularly cold calculation to make: "Well we reckon you'll only survive a few years, so it's not worth spending the money to send rescue. We'll drop you some more water and oxygen when we have the time"

    Even the convicts transported to the antipodes got a better deal than that.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Build it for Real somewhere Spooky, and with IT and Media Presentations ...

      .... is ReColonisation of Earth to Mars Standards, Simply Achieved ..... as opposed to Mars Colonisation to Earth Standards.

      Pete 2,

      An Area 51 like area, where New Age Space ARGonauts could create a Novel Martian Society in a Real Live Simulation, would make a Great Game Program which Media could plug into whenever the masses at "home" needed New Information and Intelligent Edutainment Feeds.

      And successful SMART Programs led by NASArgonauts building a Future High Tech World which is actually a Live Operational Virtual Environment which will be Gradually Seamlessly Globally Transfered into Human Consciousness and World Wide Existence, would create a NeuReal Space Based New World Order Program leading Mankind in a completely different and Better Beta Direction.

      It certainly does away with the Logistics Supply and Emergency Help Provision problem .... and speeds things up enormously, and decimates Martian Colonisation costs to an easily afforded fraction of a rocket mission.

      1. Chris Parsons


        Are you paid by the no. of CAPITAL LETTERS used?

      2. Zimmer

        The Marching Morons

        Anyone else old enough to remember C M Kornbluth's 'The Marching Morons' ???

        The solution to overpopulation was sending people to the colonies on Mars (except they never left Earth, just transported to a desert region ........)

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Q: Why don't people colonise the Gobi Desert?

          A: They do. They are commonly known as Mongolians (or Mongols) 'Been living there for centuries...

    2. Torben Mogensen

      Re: The "Gobi Desert" question

      The first settlers would primarily be scientists, who instead of just huddling in their caves would do research. While Gobi is not colonised, there are plenty of researchers going there. The main reason that don't stay there is that they don't have to: It takes only a few days to get out of the desert.

      Even if going to Mars to do research implies having to stay there, I'm sure that a lot of people would volunteer. In fact, the late Danish Mars expert Jens Martin Knudsen used to say that he wouldn't mind: His life expectancy was only a few decades anyway, low gravity would probably do him some good and he would probably die of natural causes before the long term effects of radiation would be noticeable.

      But I'm a bit sceptical about the theory that having people on Mars would keep funding from dwindling. It would not be the first time that people got sacrificed for economic reasons. Maybe not as blatantly as this, but cutbacks in healthcare, traffic control or disaster relief kills more people every year than we could send to Mars in a century. So if I were to volunteer, I would make sure that I would not be dependent on regular supplies from Earth, much like in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red/Green/Blue Mars" series. Which is overly optimistic, BTW.

    3. BozNZ


      I think the idea is to get off-planet (all your eggs in one basket and all that stuff)

  12. Steen Hive

    I would go to Mars no problem..

    Except a latency to load El Reg of anywhere between 6 and 45 minutes would remind me too much of UK broadband!

  13. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Slight flaw in the plan

    What use is a viable human gene pool on Mars allowing the possibility of a successful long-term reproduction programme (breathe in) if it's sterile?

    1. Gweilo


      Even if the colonists are sterile, they could bring some frozen sperm and ova along, kept in a lead-lined fridge. Of course, a good proportion of colonists are going to have to have medical qualifications anyway.

  14. pj3090

    It's been done before (sort of)

    Polynesia offers a much more appropriate model of permanent, one-way settlement. Over a span of a few hundred years, the original Polynesians radiated from southeast Asia to some of the most remote islands on earth (most notably Easter Island) in double-hulled, ocean-going canoes. It was once thought that these were accidental, "Gilligan's Island"-style migrations. However, the fact that the canoes carried populations capable of reproduction, along with all of the major plant and animal domesticates, suggests otherwise. On the whole, probably the most remarkable migration in all of human history (so far). A nice summary here:

    1. hplasm
      Thumb Up

      Nice Analogy-

      For the 'islands', read the 'asteroids'.

      Sod the robots, why should they have all the fun?

    2. Muscleguy

      Um sort of

      I am a great fan of what the Polynesians achieved but these voyages were not entirely one way. In the first case canoes of young men would go off a venturing to find new land. Once done and the sailing instructions remembered and/or encoded in rope knots they would sail home and describe the living in glowing terms and thus gather volunteers and support for the building, equipping, outfitting and crewing a colonisation canoe or two (flat platform with a shelter on top supported on trimaran hulls). Having worked out how to get there and back and with the motive power free, there was nothing stopping them popping home to trade and find new brides. There is good archaeological evidence, in both places, that trade back home to the central pacific continued for a couple of hundred years after New Zealand (the biggest land mass colonised) was found and settled. A whole series of canoes went over some time period.

      There is also the salutary lesson of Henderson and Pitcairn, which were colonised from Mangareva. Those colonies were interdependent, Henderson very much so as they had no trees suitable for making canoes or rocks for making tools. Pitcairn had rocks but no canoe trees (just scrub in essence). Mangareva declined because of overpopulation and suffered major deforestation (like Easter Island) and the supply/trade canoes stopped coming and the colonists on Pitcairn and Henderson were marooned. Jared Diamond tells the tale in Collapse. That there were no Polynesians there is why those islands have European names, nobody to ask 'what is this place called?'.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Pump up the Volume

    Marrs needs women!

    As the preacher in Love at First Bite said at the funeral, "When you's is dead, you's is dead. When you's is gone, you's is gone. When you's is dead and gone, there ain't no wayyyyyy you coming back".

    Dying on Marrs or here? I dunno a productive and well spent life - 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

    I'd miss all the normal things, like rain, green grass, trees, chirping birds, my neigbours nice arse....

    I'd miss my bicycle, having Microsoft to heap shit on.. well not really... as long as non of the Mars computers had Microsoft software on them - I'd be really happy.

    Places to go for a swim, hot showers, books, women... FRESH food....

    Clean sheets, being able to go for a walk without a space suit.... taking a piss on the trees..

    Pizza, oceans, good cups of tea, fresh bread, fruit...

    All my friends - and my jerk off enemies...

    Would I go? I'd like to sail around the world first... hike the mountain trails, tour the world with my band, etc., etc., etc.

    It would be pretty good - you could pull your dick out anywhere and have a leak any time....

    Not sure about the lack of atmosphere tho.

    Still the suction - that would probably beat Viagra.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      If you ask nicely

      > I'd miss all the normal things, like rain, green grass, trees, chirping birds, my neigbours nice arse....

      ...he might sign up too.

      But it's more than missing the comforts of home. What do you do when you get a toothache, or have a heart attack. Basically any sort of injury and you're effectively a goner. There's no major hospitals this side of Phobos and even that one doesn't deal with human cases. Until we know a lot more about Mars, there's not even the prospect of having the right equipment to do decent research with and without something like a fusion reactor, not enough power to keep people warm during the loooonger Martian winters (nice arses notwithstanding).

      Basically, it'll be 200+ years before we have enough knowledge, resources and abilities to get people to Mars - and support them there. Until then, it's robots all the way.

      1. Liam Johnson

        Basically, it'll be 200+ years

        That is kind of missing the point. People didn't head off on the voyages of discovery expecting to find all the hospitals set up before they got there. Of course, 400 years ago, there wasn't much by way of hospital services back home either.

      2. breakfast Silver badge

        Phobos hospital not that great either

        The hospital on Phobos isn't so bad, but you don't want to get stuck in the UAC facility there.

      3. foo_bar_baz

        People die

        Most people on early polar missions died, but they kept trying even as they knew this. What's happened?

        We in the wealthy countries have kind of lost perspective. Death is inevitable anyway, and if it happens while doing something truly great and historical, that's the price to pay.

  16. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Let me be the first

    To bravely volunteer Simon Cowell for this mission.

    1. Richard IV
      Paris Hilton

      Oh God, no!

      Assuming he survives and any other colonists don't kill him for overweening smugness, he'd have guaranteed blanket coverage for years. At least if he stays here we can live in hope that the meejah will tire of his vapid ego filled trousers.

      The same applies to Ms Hilton. (Except for the trousers)

  17. Kit-Fox

    One Ticket please

    Off this rock with all of its stupidity & foolish disagreements.

    Will gladly accept a one way ticket or any 3rd class tickets going on any passing alien vessels.

  18. Filippo Silver badge

    too early

    I'm all in favor of large space exploration budgets. However, right now, I think they would be best spent on researching and developing ways to make space travel cheaper, than on actually exploring space. In the long run, this approach would probably make an actual off-world colony far more likely. And space exploration is all about the long run.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: too early

      You're absolutely right. If mankind continues making progress in basic science and engineering, and if we sort out our political problems and avoid destroying ourselves, then one day colonising space will be easy. Do it then. Don't hold up progress by wasting resources on it now.

      No harm in thinking about it, though.

      Incidentally, you could put human beings on another planet without sending them there. Given the blueprint, synthesising a human being from scratch isn't that implausible. And growing a human from a frozen embryo is even less implausible. The only problem is, if the robots are clever enough to bring up humans on another planet, why would they need humans?

      I reckon, one way or another, humans will disappear before too long, and perhaps it's for the best.

      1. Chemist

        "If mankind continues making progress.......colonising space will be easy"

        Oh, really ?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Hundreds of years of dependency...

    ..on the benificence of politicians to provide the funding necessary to send you the stuff you need before you become self-sufficient. Always assuming said politicians don't destroy everything back on Earth.

    We seem to have enough problems keeping ISS supplied with working toilets at present. Depending on the competency and good-will of people hundreds of thousands of miles away for a long period seems a bit of a risk to me.

  20. Roger Varley

    and of course ...

    you can rest assured that the doctors, scientists, teachers and such like will be right behind you on flights 2 & 3.

    1. Blofeld's Cat


      ... right behind you in the A and C Arks, assuming the Star Goat can be kept at bay long enough.

      It has the electronic thumb in the pocket.

    2. Joe H.

      Bloody Loonies

      "You're all a bunch of bloody loonies!" "Oh, yes, that's what it was."

      -Douglas Adams

  21. Colin Brett

    Martian Colonies

    Have you read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red, Green, Blue)? Unmanned ships were sent ahead to drop off supplies, then 100 scientists were sent to Mars to form the first colony. They had plenty to do: building the first settlement; mining; hydroponics projects; seeding the planet with Earth plants. They even started deliberately producing greenhouse gasses to warm up the Martian atmosphere. By the end of the trilogy, humans were colonising or exploring a number of the inner planets.

    A fascinating read. I must pack it in my luggage for the first flight!


    1. Tom Paine

      But Colin...

      ...that was /fiction/. There is a difference.

      1. hplasm

        So is the Bible*-

        That didn't change anything, did it?

        *Insert holy book here

    2. Andy 68
      Thumb Up


      Batwings flying off the escarpments·......

      That is all.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Space Elevator?

    How hard would it be to build a Space Elevator on Mars?

    With 1/4 the gravity there comes a 1/4 lowering of the weight of pole (or would it be less even than that as the gravity well tails off faster?), bringing it closer to the realm of current-day materials science.

    So the first thing we should land on Mars should be a space elevator. Install a nuclear-powered, ion-thrusted reaction point/ top boarding platform in orbit and use that elevator as a hub around which a base would be established.

    This would then allow a more structured growth for the Marsbase as well as allowing a relatively simple method of leaving the surface.

    And radiation shielding isn't THAT hard. Okay, it's expensive at the moment- but once we've got a mining colony out there we can start manufacturing hulls offworld.

    Saying that, I'd probably volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars- so long as I got to stand atop the Olympus Mons first out of all humanity :P

    1. Muscleguy

      One there already

      Mars has a built in Space Elevator: Olympus Mons gets you most of the way there. I used to thing the mountain the palace in Lord Valentine's Castle was ridiculous, then I learnt about Olympus Mons. If nothing else it dramatically shortens the length of cable you need to use. As it's a volcano there should be some lava tubes nearby or on the slopes for at least a forward transport base.

      As for the cost of resupply, the major effort in terms of fuel is getting off planet and so it wouldn't cost much more than Soyuz resupply flights to the ISS. Since you could stack them in advance you could even boost them up then use solar sails to get them to Mars, slowly.

  23. John Savard

    Martian Microbes

    If there were indigenous microbes on Mars, studying them could unlock the secrets of life. That's why we should be careful with them, for our own benefit, not because anyone thinks microbes have rights.

    Normally, one thinks in terms of sending astronauts on a return mission to Mars first, and based on the knowledge they've obtained, then it would be more possible to make one-way colonization missions possible.

    Is Mars colonization a dead end, though, given the Martian gravity well, or is that irrelevant since the resources of Mars make its colonization possible, while an O'Neill-style L5 program is still for the distant future? Even one-way trips to Mars are a huge investment; if lunar mining can lead more easily to a human presence outside the gravity well, and eventual use of asteroidal and cometary resources for a smaller investment, that would be better: all the alternatives should be examined, not one in isolation.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Martian Microbes

      You earthlings! We martian microbes have rights too!

      Won't somebody please think of the microbes?

  24. loopy lou

    @The "Gobi Desert" Question

    What would you do there? Spend every waking minute trying to construct a rocket to get back to earth again.

    Nothing like a life or death challenge to focus the mind.

  25. Poor Coco
    Thumb Down

    Hang on a moment...

    The reasons given by this guy for colonizing Mars includes a nearby supernova wiping out life on Earth.

    But if Mars has no magnetosphere, wouldn't the people there be even more fucked?

  26. Alex Walsh


    ...a manual for this already, called Red Mars by some bloke called Kim Stanley Robinson. Good read.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Supernova? Seriously?

    So, are they saying that a supernova that hit earth would skip Mars?

    1. JDB

      long term

      No, but if we're eventually to get far enough away, Mars would be the first step to get there.

    2. ian 22

      Several questions plan

      1. To boldly save humanity from a catastrophe here at home- Do they not think the Earth would be "a catastrophe" if it became as inhospitable as Mars?

      2. To boldly save humanity from a catastrophe here at home- A set of geriatric old age pensioners past reproductive age will continue humanity how?

      3. To boldly save humanity from a catastrophe here at home- A set of radiation-fried bollocks will continue humanity how?

      4. Less expensive than returning them to the green hills of Earth- How much will supplying the poor sods cost?

      This plan needs a bit more thought.

  28. M7S

    Relying on future governments to fund supplies for a few decades or more

    OK chaps, away you go then.

    Interesting as the idea is, when it gets all too expensive I wouldnt trust them to do some kind of Capricorn 1 in reverse, claim the last supply ship did a Beagle and impacted on the residential facility, killing all the colonists.

    A bit of jamming from a satellite so that no radio hams pick up any mayday calls, and thats your budget deficit taken care of for a while.

    Unless Mars produces something that Earth really wants, once the initial bit is over, there;s certainly no votes in funding a bunch of expensive geriatric hermits. Look at our care homes for proof.

    I'd want reliable suspended animation to go as part of the early trips, you know, just in case a little snooze was required.

  29. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Golgafrincham, a planet formally known as earth

    On the first ship go all the important people: hairdressers, telephone sanitisers, middle management, social network entrepreneurs, etc.. Nobody will miss them and they won't miss anything as long as they can plug themselves into the interplanet™ and go on about how amazing they are.

    It seems to me that the proposed solution if of little scientific interest apart from in the social sciences: some people can't resist wanting to keep on pushing on west and that some people are more disposable than others.

    1. John G Imrie

      You do know

      what happened to those Golgafrinchams who remained, don't you?

  30. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    Overinflated opinion of humanity

    "Thus, the colonisation of other worlds is a must if the human species is to survive for the long term."

    Well, in several more billion years, we may go through a big-crunch/big-bang cycle, so should we start planning a way to get humanity to survive that as well? Truth is, whatever cosmic force it was that created life on earth will be the same force that destroys it, despite our weak protestations to the contrary.

  31. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I think this is just a plot to get rid of Sir Patrick Moore.

    Nothing else has worked... barred from London and cut off at the knees, he still makes his "Dark Angel" type bootleg broadcasts. I am not sure if Paul Davies actually is one of those formerly captured and held for ransom in his lair with the horrible garden of instantly deadly plants, they sort of blur together. Or was that out of [You Only Live Twice]? (The book?)

    Maybe he'd appreciate less gravity. But ensuring human species survival by setting up a colony of pensioners is about as likely to work as that "Star Trek" episode where Spock kidnaps the wheelchair bound guy and they go to that planet where they found all the old people... oh, that's where Davies got the idea. (No, not the one where the landing party all suddenly get old as well.)

    According to novel [The Fountains of Paradise], the problem with a Martian Space Elevator apart from any basic impossibility is that at least one of the Martian moons is going to pass quite regularly through its customers' personal space, although the same book presents a proposition of twanging the thing so that the satellite always just misses, and building a spectator gallery. However, - tell you what, read the book.

    By the way, they tried sending The Incredible Hulk into outer space. Several times. He always comes back, so forget it.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...this is the Reg's next project after PARIS.

    Come to think of it, Lester has gone very quiet of late - could he and our very favourite celebutante be about to colonise the Red Planet using nothing more than some bendy straws, gaffer tape and assorted plastic playthings?

  33. drymartini

    mars logistics

    Hopefully the useful looking landing system in the upcoming MSL rover mission will be a success. What happens to the 900kg payload is a good indication of whether current technology will support the needs of a manned flight.

    1. Tom Paine

      MSL Skycrane

      The MSL Skycrane would be of no use whatsoever in landing humans on Mars. Apollo's ascent stage (the bit the humans landed in) massed 4,700kg, and only had to support it's two-man crew for a few days. You are quite correct to have noticed that EDL is one of several complete showstoppers for boots on Mars.

  34. Alan 6


    I hope they pack a chainsaw and a BFG, oh and plenty of first aid kits and armour top-ups...

  35. Sonny Jim

    Reduced life expentancy?

    "[the space voyage would] reduce their life expectancy to 20 years or so"

    Have I read that wrong? Surely it should say:

    "reduce their life expectancy BY 20 years or so"

    1. F111F

      20 is correct.

      The article is referring to their life expectancy on Mars, which would be about 20 years or so, based on the amount of radiation absorbed a) on the journey there, and b) on the surface. As I understand it, the major cancers from radiation take about 20 years to start to flourish, which is why the animals with shorter lifespans/quicker reproductive cycles are doing relatively well around Chernobyl.

  36. John 62

    trusting the humanity of man?

    Not sure I'd want to trust my survival on the assumption that governments will be kindly enough to keep supplying me with stuff.

    Anyway. Once they have their underground complex built they'll find it infested with demons because they didn't notice they built it over the very MOUTH OF HELL! They'll only be able to send people who grew up playing Doom.

  37. Tuwongfu

    Total Recall

    Been done and doing it again!! Send up Colin Farrell for some practice at Mars life before totalling another historic cheese fest film!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No children, at least initially

    Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      re: No children, at least initially

      Very good point. In fact, it's cold as hell.

      Beside, there's no one there to raise 'em if you did.

      Mine's the radiation-shielded EMU. Thanks.

  39. Steve Evans

    "colonists may be preferred who are beyond their reproductive age".

    So as men are technically capable for their entire life, surely this would mean the crew would comprise purely of older ladies.

    They're never going to fit all their shoes into the capsule!

  40. Kev Beeley
    Thumb Up

    Somehow, I'm reminded of this

    (NSFW due to lots of swearing, even if it IS beeped out)

  41. Tom Paine

    Never gonna happen

    Landing humans plus enough infrastructure for them to survive more than a day or two on the surface of Mars is, for any practical purposes, impossible. If every industrialised nation pooled half their GDP for a few decades it might be /technically/ possible, but there's no way that'd happen, for the obvious reason that *it's not worth it*.

  42. M. Burns Silver badge

    These clowns need a history lesson

    "be little different from the first white settlers of the North American continent, who left Europe with little expectation of return."

    First of all, by the early 1600's when the first white settlers tried to establish permanent colonies (Jamestown & Plymouth), European fishermen and traders had been going back and forth between New England and Europe for nearly a hundred years. By the time these colonies were started, the native populations had already been greatly reduced by European diseases. These colonies were underwritten by investors back in England who continually sent ships with supplies and goods to sell the colonists, and expected the colonists to repay their investments. The "isolation" these scientists describe never existed.

    Another example of egos out of proportion.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Not a very good comparison at all, really

      Settlers going to North America could also pretty sure of finding air, water and food. They knew it was possible to live there.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      early European NA settlements

      Besides Jamestown and Plymouth, there were St Augustine on the Florida peninsula (established in 1565) and the Espanola Valley settlement in what's now New Mexico (1598). Both of them have been continuously occupied by Europeans until today, unlike Jamestown. There are other examples of European strongholds in North America prior to the land rush. I mention this to reinforce your point - Europeans gradually established footholds in the Americas, built an infrastructure to support colonists, and expended a great deal of time and material in making their environment more amenable (by slaughtering indigenes, etc).

      Claims about brave pioneers venturing into the wilderness are largely a load of crap. Of course, we can hardly expect scientists to demonstrate even a passing familiarity with history.

  43. Dazed and Confused

    Old age space exploration

    Incidentally the idea of using older people to explore the solar system is not new. I remember an interview, I'm pretty sure it was with Michael Foale, where he suggested that "retired" astronauts would be the ideal people for any proposed mission to Mars, since there was nothing that could be done to protect the occupants against the radiation risk and so it made sense to look for a crew where who were likely to die from old age before the the space induced cancers got them.

    Michael was saying that he would certainly conciser volunteering for such a trip and that he thought other astronauts would be interested too.

    I don't think he was thinking of just going 1 way though.

  44. mittfh

    Thinking of microbes...

    What's the possibilty that by the time flight number 2 arrives, all members of flight number 1 have been killed off by Martian microbes?

    Meanwhile, the sentient Martian scientists will be assuring the populace that "The chances of anything coming from Earth are a million to one."

    /hums "Eve of War"

  45. DI_Wyman


    .....can you send my wife?

  46. Shonko Kid

    "... concern over possible Martian microbes shouldn't ..."

    You say that now, but what about in 100 years time when the microbe infected zombies are heading back to Earth, hell-bent on revenge???

  47. Adair Silver badge

    re MSL Skycrane, and other ramblings...

    Has it occurred to anyone else that the 'MSL Skycrane' takes the KISS principle, kicks it down the stairs, and then drops a Mars rover on it from a very great height? It may work, but what are the odds of something going wrong all along that long complicated chain of events. Whatever happened to the giant inflatable beach ball approach---'zorbing' on Mars, what a fun way to start the holiday of a lifetime!

    And, speaking of the actual thread topic, I vote 'To Boldly Go' a 'romantic non-starter'. If we're going to do 'space' at all we should be concentrating on better motive power, safer (radiation proof) rides, and learning how to get around the solar system economically and in some style, before we start setting up shop anywhere else. We've still got plenty of work to do here before we start exporting the human condition anywhere else.

  48. Albatross

    Sign me up!

    I left a clause in my marriage vows allowing me to sign up for interplanetary missions, so just show me where to sign up. Any chance that Katie Price or Keeley Hazell are considering joining?

  49. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Most of the population of Eastbourne would be candidates

    I've heard.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    I'd go

    I would go even if I knew that the transport would crash and I'd die on impact. To be part of that kind of first step would be awesome.

  51. Steve Roper
    Thumb Up

    Kuato Lives!

    All you people who are so willing to go, when you get there - Start the Reactor. Free Mars.

  52. wayward4now

    Doctor Strangelove got it right!

    Well, that would not be necessary Mr. President. It could easily be accomplished with a omputer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross section of necessary skills. Of course it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition.

    Slams down left fist.

    Right arm rises in stiff Nazi salute.


    Restrains right arm with left.

    "Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. But ah with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present gross national product within say, twenty years.

  53. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Olympus Mons ski-club

    Now taking new members.

  54. Anonymous Coward

    re: Australia 2

    Otherwise known as "America 3"

  55. Grave

    Where do I sign up?

    got the necessary goods (intelligence, no emotional instability, strong will, no society dependencies, being alone doesn't bother me, wont miss nature or sunlight or people, can live underground with no problem)

  56. Magnus_Pym
    Thumb Up

    Get off the earth is the expensive bit.

    Now that projects have been cut NASA has loads of redundant stuff lying around. Transport it up to the ISS in batches and away you go. Just bolt on a rocket and start the journey. They could use the time it takes to arrive in Mars orbit to devise a landing module.

    Job done.

  57. Jay 2

    One way trip

    Reminds me of the plot to Titan by Stephen Baxter: (Wiki alert!)

    Though in this case it's Saturn's moon Titan that is the designated destination.

  58. Zolko Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Why not the Moon ?

    If there's nothing on Mars, then why not go to the Moon, where there's equally nothing but is much closer ?

    Plus, unlike on Mars, there is actually pretty good vacuum, that could be used :

    - to build an astronomic observatory (without atmospheric turbulence)

    - to make research into new propulsion technologies for deep space travel

    Really a no-brainer.

  59. Mussie (Ed)


    Anyone else thinking about Melenium 2.2 and Ian Bird after reading this "We are a vulnerable species living in a part of the galaxy where cosmic events such as major asteroid....."

  60. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    What's so great about humans?

    "quite bluntly in any case concern over possible Martian microbes shouldn't prevent the human race acquiring its survival insurance policy"

    Why the hell not? Worrying about Martian microbes might at least be a useful moral exercise, with parallels to actual consequential moral and ethical decisions. The "long term survival of the human race", on the other hand, benefits no one except for a bunch of imaginary people who might or might not exist sometime in the future, and whose potential existence is precisely what's in question - so they don't even suffer if said "long term survival" is thwarted.

    Really, why should anyone give a rat's about how long the human species exists? We get our turn and we play our hand. The universe isn't going to miss us when we're gone.

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