Each of these have their own timelines and methods of approach with the same goal in mind: a colony of human Martians. The big question is who will get there first? And once they get there, who will be able to not only establish a city first, but who will be able to establish a long term self-sustaining settlement?
It is no secret that Musk has a dream of sending people to Mars. This past July (2014), Musk told Stephen Colbert, “We are aspiring to send people to Mars.” (1) In that same interview Musk eluded to the idea of interplanetary colonies when he stated that his main reason for sending people to Mars was to hedge our bets on the survival of the human species.
“A multi-planet species, humanity as we know it is likely to propagate into the future much further than if we are a single-planet species.” (1) However, during that interview he never explicitly stated that SpaceX would be the company leading the charge on Martian Colonization.
On September 8, 2014, Musk put all of the wondering to bed when he publicly stated that the long term goal of SpaceX was to build a human city on Mars. “The reason I haven’t taken SpaceX public is the goals of SpaceX are very long-term, which is to establish a city on Mars.” (2)
He views Mars as a do-it-yourself project that will require plenty of manpower and a tremendous amount of supplies to be shipped to the planet. Musk theorizes that people will be visiting the planet on a regular basis in as little as a decade.
From then on, people and cargo can be left on Mars and resupplied during visits. The main goal of the first settlers on Mars would be to begin terraforming the planet to make it more hospitable. This timeline does make it a long term goal, but it seems that Musk will have some competition looking to expedite colonization process: MarsOne.
Where Elon Musk is keeping his plans to colonize the Red Planet rather close to the chest, MarsOne states it outright:
“Mars One will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024. Our first unmanned mission will be launched in 2018.” (3)
The MarsOne mission has laid out a fairly concise road map (4) that outlines the project from its inception in 2011 to launch of a secondary crew in 2026. MarsOne plans on training the first crew next year and plans to have an established Martian outpost in as little as nine years.
Even though the MarsOne mission is taking an aggressive approach to the colonization, it is not without caution. The project also recognizes the risks that are involved in an undertaking of this size.
“Mars One identifies two major risk categories: the loss of human life and cost overruns.” (5)
The project recognizes that everything from the smallest detail will have to run like clockwork because the slightest failure or incident could result in the loss of human life. Secondary to the loss of life is the overrunning of costs. Like any project, there are unforeseen complications that could cause the mission to go over budget. However, MarsOne has outlined the steps it has taken to mitigate these risks. (5)
Who Will Get to Mars First?
It is rather hard to tell since Elon Musk is not really forthcoming about his plans to get there or establish a city, but does have plenty of money to throw at the idea.
On the other hand, the MarsOne project appears to have an aggressive, but well thought out plan that even factors in the risks.
Unfortunately, the project must also remain in a perpetual state of fundraising to keep itself going.
It seems to me that to give a Martian colony the best chances at survival, SpaceX and MarsOne should join forces allowing the race to end in a tie. Though it would be a tie for SpaceX and MarsOne, it would be a win for the human race.
References & Image Credits:
(1) Business Insider: Elon Musk and Colbert Talk SpaceX Mars
(2) Business Insider: Elon Musk Wants to Build a City on Mars