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Why Mars Should Be The Next Giant Leap for Mankind Why Mars Should Be The Next Giant Leap for Mankind
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Why Mars Should Be The Next Giant Leap for Mankind

by Suzanne Flinkenflogel

January 30, 2014

It feels like yesterday when I first heard about Mars One, the not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. It was at a business meeting when I met Bas Lansdorp. We started talking and at one point in the conversation I asked him about his job. He said he was organizing a manned mission to Mars. I honestly thought he was joking, so I politely laughed and said, "Now that's very funny, but seriously, what do you do?” He repeated the same thing. Although I wasn’t yet taking him seriously, this intrigued me tremendously, so I started asking him more questions. He told me that ever since he saw images of the Sojourner rover on Mars in 1997 he wanted to go to Mars himself. He explored the idea in the years that followed, and after numerous discussions with friends, colleagues and experts, the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall in place. Together with Arno Wielders, he founded Mars One in 2011 and started working full time on the plan. It didn’t take him long to convince me of the sincerity of the plans. Enthusiastically, I said that if Mars One ever needed help with communications, I would be thrilled to assist. So, here I am, almost two years later, responsible for the communications of Mars One.

Why Do We Think Humans Should Go to Mars? For the Adventure, Curiosity and Progress 

Imagine living on another planet; looking up into the sky with the knowledge that one of the 'stars' is actually the planet you were born on. Those who observed Neil Armstrong land on the Moon all those years ago still remember every detail – where they were, who they were with and how they felt. This will be our moment. A second reason is good, old-fashioned curiosity. Where did Mars come from? Can it teach us about Earth's history? Is there life on Mars? These are just three of the hundreds of burning questions for scientists all over the world. Thirdly: progress. It will jumpstart massive developments in all kinds of areas, a few examples being in recycling, solar energy, food production and the advancement of medical technology.

How Going to Mars is Building a Global Community

When we announced our plans May 2012, we started receiving many enthusiastic emails from people from all over the world, excited about the possibility of traveling outside Earth. One man in his sixties wrote to us: “I have been interested in space and its exploration ever since President Kennedy made his speech about putting a man on the moon. It would seem that having everyday people such as myself, get involved with pledges of whatever one could afford either on a monthly basis or just per pledge. I saw where taxpayers won't be paying for any of this but I find it absolutely thrilling that this is going to take place and would love to be a part of it in some way, no matter how small that would be. To be around when this comes to pass would be amazing, I hope I am! Please let me know if there will be any kind of program where us little guys can be a part of this great adventure.”

I was and still am overwhelmed by the overall support and positive response to our plans. When you see messages like this coming in every day, you begin to realize that this is truly something the world wants to happen. This isn’t just a mission of one organization or one country, this is everyone’s mission. We can and should do this together. We want this to be humankind’s mission to Mars and want to give everybody the opportunity to participate in space exploration.

We took the first major step towards this goal in April 2013. We opened the doors to everyone around the world by providing an open application process for the potential crew that will fly to Mars in 2025 to establish the human settlement on the Red Planet. More than 200,000 people worldwide applied. Meet some of them here: applicants.mars-one.com.

How Can You Contribute to Mars One?

In December 2013 we took another leap toward this goal, when we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The campaign will help us achieve our financial goals more rapidly. It will finance the Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd mission concept studies for the 2018 Mars lander and satellite, respectively $256,000 and $80,000. But far more important, the crowdfunding campaign is a great way to involve people in our plans. It really gives individuals a chance to participate in our human mission to Mars. By making a financial contribution, you can send your electronic picture to Mars and in 2019, a Mars One communications satellite will pull up an image of your picture while in orbit and snap a shot of it with Mars in the background. Another popular perk provides any person the ability to create a personal message to be printed directly on the parachute which will be used to land the first Mars One spacecraft in 2019. You can also send a real printed passport photo with your message for the future Mars inhabitants on the back. It will travel to the surface of Mars in a container on board on our 2018 lander. You can even witness the rocket launch of our spacecraft in 2018 live.

Thinking About Youth and the Future

Later this year, we will take a third important step towards involving the world. We will launch a worldwide university challenge and several Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education challenges. We will invite students around the world to submit a proposal for an experiment that will be sent to Mars on our first Mars Lander in 2018. There will be high school and university categories. Additionally, children under 14 can also submit a proposal to send a package to Mars. We will provide the groups of students that participate an educational information package. We believe a challenge that can have their experiment actually flown to Mars will certainly spark the students’ interest.

With these three steps, we’re just getting started. The whole world will watch and experience this journey. We will follow the astronauts in their training and preparations to live on Mars. We will see their departure from Earth and travel with them on their journey to their new home, and we will witness the "next giant leap for mankind."

Human exploration of Mars does not end when the first crew lands - it is only just starting. Humans will live on a second planet and will slowly start exploring it. On Earth, we will watch and learn how they succeed in building a new life on a new planet. On Mars, the astronauts will not only submit routine reports, but will also share all that they enjoy and find challenging. It will give the people on Earth a unique and personal insight view of life on Mars. They could answer intriguing questions like: What is it like to walk on Mars? How do you feel about your fellow astronauts after a year? What is it like living in the reduced Mars’ gravity? 

We are all explorers. Everyone, including you, can participate in space exploration. I'm looking forward to each and every step on the way to the first human arrival on Mars and I would love for you to get involved and share this adventure.

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

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