Fox News recently ran a piece on plans by Mars One to launch one-way missions to Mars, with the first arrival in 2023: Mars One Plans Suicide Mission to Red Planet for 2023.
The idea is that the astronauts are emigres, and not just visitors. This removes the need for return spacecraft and the associated fuel, tremendously reducing the cost and complexity of the missions. It also eases the concern that the early Mars missions, like Apollo, might eventually lose support and result in another dead end.
Hyperbolic headlines aside, I agree with Brian Enke that “extended stay mission” is a more appropriate name. The early settlers in North America arguably faced tougher physical and psychological hurdles, yet I doubt many would refer to their journey as a suicide mission.
A major theme of In the Shadow of Ares is the role of private enterprise in Martian development and settlement, though we initially expected government-led missions to open the frontier before “getting out of the way”. Mars One proposes to conduct their missions completely independently, though it remains to be seen if they can obtain the required funding, estimated at $6 billion for the first mission. I, for one, would love to see them pull it off.
I look forward to learning more, though an initial perusal led me to a few concerns, not least of which is Mars One’s stated intent to rely entirely on solar power on the Martian surface. I believe their concerns regarding nuclear power are severely overstated, and smack of politics trumping science. Readers of In the Shadow of Ares may recall politically-motivated power choices having deadly consequences for a group of settlers at Tharsis Station.