Opinion: Count me out for Mars One

Savanna Hennig

“Today my teacher asked us if we want to live on Mars,” my 9-year-old niece announced suddenly at the dinner table. Everyone in the room fell silent.

Turns out, her fourth grade teacher had devoted a section of class time to talk to his students about the Mars One mission. He briefly explained the mission, and then polled his students on who wanted to head to space and who wanted to stay on Earth.

Savanna Hennig
Savanna Hennig

For those unfamiliar with Mars One, it’s a Dutch-based foundation that will attempt to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. In 2013, the selection process of astronauts began, and according to Mars-One.com, the entire world will be able to vote (Is this American Idol-style voting?) on which trained group of astronauts will be the first on Mars. If all goes according to plan, human beings would be on Mars by 2025. This is only a decade from now, folks.

To better explain it to his students, the fourth grade elementary teacher compared the Mars One mission to Christopher Columbus’s quest back in 1492. What? Are we comparing the colonization of America to space colonization now? The idea perplexes me. At least Columbus was staying in his own atmosphere. You know, with oxygen.

“So,” I asked my niece, “do you want to be an astronaut?”

She gave me a resounding no. And I absolutely agreed with her.

The idea of space travel absolutely terrifies me (I’ve seen “Gravity,” c’mon people). The Mars One colonization is completely one way, which means there’s no coming back from the other planet. It takes seven to eight months to travel to Mars, and then there’s the process of landing the ship. There’s so much room for error traveling to Mars alone, whether it be a miscalculation in supplies (such as dehydration and starvation) or a storm of space debris and rocks striking the ship.

Even if the traveling is successful, would living on a separate planet even be feasible? What kind of quality of life are we talking about here? Obviously there will be a set up to grow several types of plants for food and production of oxygen, but how stable will that be? How long will it last? So many questions come forward.

“When people ask me why I am going to Mars to die, I say we are all going to die, but it’s important what you do before you die,” Alison Rigby, a prospective Mars One astronaut, said. Rigby, 35, from East London added in an interview with CNN, “Pioneers are always ridiculed, but I am doing this for something better, which will hopefully benefit more people than just staying at home.”

I can completely understand how wonderful space exploration is. Moving forward in the field of science is a great thing. However, I do think that there are better places to throw ten billion dollars—Mars One estimates six billion dollars for the cost of putting the first four people on Mars, and then another four billion for each additional group.

In 2025, if Mars One is successful and humans are able to live on Mars, my niece and I will be waving from Earth, where it’s safe.