Sir Martin Rees: "It's a one-way trip to Mars"
The first people to walk on Mars will be sent on one-way tickets, according to Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees.
“Future expeditions to the Moon and beyond will only be politically and financially feasible if they are spearheaded by individuals who accept that they may never return,” he said.
Writing for this week’s Big Issue, the renowned astrophysicist argued that even though NASA has just landed Curiosity – the most advanced robotic rover yet – on the surface of the red planet, they were a long way from sending people.
“The current cost gap between manned and unmanned mission is huge,” he said.
In the week that saw the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, Rees said that America’s national space agency would no longer tolerate the kind of risks faced by the Apollo-era heroes.
In 1969, Armstrong had rated the chances of their successful touchdown at no better than 50/50.
“I hope that some people living will walk on Mars, but I don’t think this will happen unless they are prepared to accept very high risks,” said Rees. “Anything else would be too expensive.”
One-way tickets would be one way of keeping the cost down but Rees insisted that this requirement would not put off interplanetary pioneers, who may be backed by private investment or perhaps by the Chinese government.
He insisted: “Many people would volunteer to live out their days on Mars.”
To read the full feature by Sir Martin Rees, buy your copy of The Big Issue, on sale until September 9