Dutch Group Planning for Mars Settlement by 2023

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A Dutch group has announced plans to set up a colony on Mars by 2023.

The successful completion of the SpaceX mission to the International Space Station, as well as the ongoing developments at Virgin Galactic have apparently set off a trend. Despite the enormous difficulty and expense related to space travel, a Dutch group has announced plans to set up a small living station on Mars by 2023.

The group effort, dubbed Mars One, is led by Bas Lansdorp, a researcher from the Netherlands with a Masters in Science from Delft University of Technology. The plan is to send a communications satellite to the planet by 2016 and after several stages finally land humans on Mars for permanent settlement in 2023.

Claiming to have international letters of interest from suppliers who would potentially supply services to the effort, the group has produced a video presentation (below) outlining the mission that, at first glance, looks a bit low-budget and strains the credibility of the entire effort. But then Gerard ‘t Hooft, a Dutch theoretical physicist and winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics, appears on the video, lending his support to the project.

Although Lansdorp’s credentials might be questioned by those unfamiliar with his work, upon closer inspection it appears that Lansdorp is quite serious in his Mars aspirations. In an effort to learn more about this ambitious new would-be player in the commercial space race, we reached out to Dr. Richard Ruiterkamp, who co-founded Ampyx Power with Lansdorp back in 2008.

According to Ruiterkamp, the energy company, which is headquartered in The Hague, was Lansdorp’s primary focus up until February 2011, when he left to pursue his new space venture. When asked about Lansdorp’s background in space research, Ruiterkamp confirmed that Lansdorp has maintained a deep focus on the area for years, dedicating a good deal of his doctoral research with help from the team that launched the Young Engineers’ Satellite 2 (YES2) project in 2007, and as a member of the Dutch branch of the Mars Society. You can see Lansdorp’s ambition and futuristic vision on full display in a 2010 TED talk in Amsterdam on the topic of energy production.

Although Hooft’s support, a graphic video presentation, and letters of intent from suppliers are hardly proof that the Mars colony project will become a reality, they all point to a very real trend of excitement around the commercialization of space. Putting a colony on Mars is likely much farther away than 2023, but ambitious proposals like Mars One will serve to encourage others hoping to follow in the footsteps of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

In Aug. 2011, Musk discussed his own aspirations for Mars colonization, arguing that a trip to Mars will be as commonplace as a trip to Europe in just several decades.

In April, NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) called on researchers and engineers in planetary science to submit their ideas for how best to explore the Red Planet. The space agency’s Curiosity Rover, meanwhile, is expected to arrive on Mars by Aug. 6.

If you’re in Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History is currently running an exhibit that touches on Mars colonization. “Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration” will be open until Aug. 12.

By Adario Strange, PCMag


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