Ten years ago I was sitting in a TV studio in Romania with a bunch of top scientists, talking about the space race. My producers were asking the rhetorical question why is it that the space race stopped, that countries don't seem to want to go to space, Moon or Mars as it was in the Apollo time?
I replied that I believed what happened prior to our discussion (aka people going to space) emerged from the cold war and it took off as a space race competition between the superpowers USA and USSR. And yes Kennedy was one of the greatest leaders to have had the vision to elevate the cold war to space - look at all that came with it: better communication, velcro, biosecurity, safer food. But when the cold war finished, the first thing "they" did was to dismantle the first (russian) space station MIR just because they could. And yet. I argued that it was just a matter of time until this will be picked up again by commercial endeavours, and I said that in the grand scale of the universe this was merely a moment.
I did not expect it to start back so soon!!
I believe that looking back to these ten-twenty years, humanity progressed enormously. We sent scientific instruments to space (Curiosity and all the rovers). We are genuinely interested on going on other planets and understanding the science behind them, because we are curious not because we have to compete in a war of some sort. So we kind of kept the flame burning but seeing people in space changes the challenge.
Human presence somewhere is such a milestone. The first human in Antarctica, the first human on the Moon, the first human to go to Mars!!!
There are a few organisations thinking of doing that currently:
Firstly let's start with NASA which estimates that it is not possible to put humans on Mars earlier than 2030. Here is a link to their human Mars programme http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/programmissions/science/goal4/ NASA wants its people back home safely.
So does Inspiration Mars. The Inspiration Mars project http://www.inspirationmars.org is aiming to launch two astronauts in a historic flight around Mars and back to Earth launching in 2018.
But then, surprise, the very controversial Mars One project started recruiting for astronauts today http://mars-one.com for a one-way trip to Mars. Even CNN had issues believing this project, you can read all about the saga here: CNN Mars One article. It gives a very detailed account of what this expedition means. ""If humans land on Mars, everyone will want to watch," Mars One CEO Bas Landsorp said "It will be bigger than the Olympic Games." Which is why he say they will try and find some of the money from the income revenue of the reality TV show.
Rivers of ink and bytes will flow starting tonight and I cannot stop but being happy that we are thinking forward to this goal. And I hope humanity will be wise in choosing to go to Mars, will respect Mars and will respect live.
Some FAQ - we will add some more soon, so keep an eye on this space!
How an international crew put together by a dutch foundation will cope with ITAR, since all their supposed suppliers are from the US?