New project aims to establish a human colony on Mars
MarsPolar, a newly-started international venture, is setting its sights on the Red Planet. The project consists of specialists from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, the U.S., and Ukraine, and is working to establish a human settlement on Mars’ polar region. This area of the planet has abundant quantities of water ice. With water an essential resource for both crews and rocket fuel, MarsPolar has this section of Mars in its sights.
The targeted area could also be very interesting in terms of the search for alien life. As the MarsPolar team puts it: “… life begins where the water exists.” The current plan is to establish a human colony on Mars by 2029. “We want to send to Mars a crew of 4-6 astronauts, every 2 years,” Roman Juranek, the project’s Director of Communications for Poland, told SpaceFlight Insider partner site astrowatch.net.
Juranek and his colleagues have already focused in on one company in particular to launch the mission’s various crew and cargo.
“SpaceX has proved that it is worth cooperating with our company. A contract with NASA is a good proof, and we would like to establish cooperation, making use of Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” Juranek said.
But before MarsPolar can be set to send a crewed mission, several spacecraft will need to be delivered to Mars with habitats and supplies for future colonists. A Mars rover is also planned. The rover is slated to be launched in 2018, 2 years after the start of NASA’s InSight mission on which the team’s robot would be based on.
Who will develop the rover? This is still an open question as the team wants to give a chance to every interested company and waits for the best offer.
“We want to give a chance to every company that will apply. I myself would like to see some Polish companies, because I’m aware of our [Poland’s] great designers, and students are constructing outstanding rovers, successfully competing in Mars analog contests. So there are no obstacles to build another successful one that will reach the Red Planet this time,” Juranek admitted.
In 2027, the Mars Transportation Vehicle (MTV) is scheduled to take 35 metric tons of payload to the low-Earth Orbit (LEO). MTV will be loaded with food, water, and oxygen supplies as well as more than 20 metric tons of hardware for future Mars explorers, which will include the following: Dragon spacecraft, habitats, life support system, solar arrays, spacesuits, and a water extraction unit.
A month after the arrival of the first MTV to LEO, the second stage – containing fuel tanks with a mass of up to 40 metric tons and an additional engine – will be launched to LEO and docked to the first stage. Upon arrival of the MTV at Mars, the Dragon will be undocked and directed back to Earth. The rest of the MTV will aerobrake into orbit around Mars and will land with the help of a parachute.
According to the team’s website, the life support systems and the water extractor will be turned on, so that a breathable atmosphere will be ready until a second ship with the crew arrives on Mars.
Every 2 years, another spacecraft would be sent to Mars as there is only one launch window every 26 months – when Mars and Earth “line up” and with that journey taking approximately 6-7 months.
The first crew that will start its interplanetary trip to our second closest planetary neighbor will spend a short time – from one week to one month – in Earth’s orbit, awaiting the second Falcon Heavy launch with the additional booster unit. A month after the arrival of the second MTV’s stage to LEO, the stage containing fuel tanks with a mass of up to 40 metric tons and an additional engine, will be launched to LEO and docked to the first stage. Then the spacecraft, using the booster unit, will be directed toward Mars. The landing site for the crew will be chosen near the position of the second unmanned mission.
“At this stage, it’s hard to define the exact mission schedule,” Juranek noted. “We’re dependent on the 2 year launch window to Mars.”
The astronaut selection process is also still in its infancy. The team has only specified the basic criteria, not shutting the door on the vast number of future wannabe Martians. Juranek only unveiled that the candidates should have what it takes – a vocation and adequate predispositions for the job.
The MarsPolar team is currently going through the organizational processes. They want to establish their headquarters, the MarsPolar Space Center, somewhere in the UAE as their website is registered in Dubai. The team’s first goal on the long road to Mars is to create a legal private space company in the UAE.
It would be hard for the newly-created project to avoid comparisons to the Dutch company Mars One also planning to colonize the Red Planet with a fleet of space pioneers. But Juranek emphasizes that MarsPolar is different and it would not compete with the famed one-way mission designed by Bas Lansdorp. The new venture differs in terms of preparations for the mission and also the costs which are planned to be much lower.
However, MarsPolar’s mission also would not include a return trip for the Mars colonists, at least for the next ten years upon their arrival. Nevertheless, the team has prepared a concept of the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV), which may be used in the future.
To secure the funding for the ambitious pioneering journey to Mars and to begin the necessary activities like building the space center, MarsPolar will rely mainly on donations, investments, and future business income opportunities.
A great many space-related organizations, not the least of which include NASA as well as commercial space companies like SpaceX, have announced their intention to send astronauts to the surface of the Red Planet. NASA has sent seven spacecraft – three orbiters, three rovers, and one lander – to Mars since 2001 alone.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.