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Who Would Buy a One-Way Ticket to Mars?

Jul 24 2013
Out-of-this world commitment from people who seem less committed than ever.

Wanted: Adventurous individuals who are willing to settle new lands, survive in harsh conditions, subsist on few resources, and—quite possibly—make history.

Our generation's version of Lewis and Clark's transcontinental expedition or Magellan's seafaring journey has its charts set for a previously uninhabited planet: Mars. What once would have been a plot for a sci-fi flick is now a job opening.

The Dutch company Mars One is currently accepting applications for a mission to Mars…with a big catch. This trip requires applicants to sign on for a one-way ticket.

According to Mars One's cofounder Bas Lansdorp, the 7-8 month journey to the Red Planet will result in a significant loss of bone and muscle mass for astronauts. Plus, after spending any length of time in Mars' significantly weaker gravitation fields, travelers would find it almost impossible to reacclimate to the pull of Earth. So the team of astronauts will make the trip prepared to plant their own food on Martian soil, recycle human waste into water, and generate all their needed energy from the sun.

Who would take such a risk? Who would say a permanent goodbye to everyone and everything they've known in this world—family, friends, grass, blue skies, fresh fruit, running water, phones, animals…not to mention breathable air—for the sake of an experiment that has no guarantee of success?

Thousands have already applied to join the mission, and Mars One expects that this is only the beginning.

Whether we'd ever don a space suit ourselves, we have to admit there's something compelling about these individuals who are willing to "boldly go where no man has gone before." Applicants would undoubtedly cite various motivations for making a one-way trip to another planet: the thrill of adventure, the promise of fame, the prospect of embarking on something entirely unprecedented.

It could be argued that these individuals are merely trying to escape this world or are latching on to an unworthy—perhaps even foolhardy—cause, but they certainly give us plenty to ponder when it comes to our own level of commitment.

A Fading Virtue

Here in the gravitational pull of earth, commitment remains a rare commodity. There's no clear way to measure something so intangible, but statistics certainly point to a cultural decrease in commitment levels.

Just look at our relationships: More than 40 percent of first marriages in the United States end in divorce, and over the past two decades, the divorce rate has doubled for those 50 and over. Perhaps even more tellingly, over 10 percent of American couples don't pledge marriage vows at all.

Related Topics:Astronomy; Desert Fathers
From: July 2013

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