Mars One is constructing a one-way project to send human to live in Mars and currently 200,000 applications were received from volunteers. However, it is unlikely to build human settlement in Mars at the present stage. Concerns were raised about moral issues of sending candidates to Mars, and the financial and technical problems. As above, this project has engendered a lot of controversy in the public. Should people continue the Mars One plan or leave it in aside?
Ready to take off
Firstly, it is surprising that there are 200,000 candidates even though the mission is risky and non-returnable. Logically, the project should be suspended, however, participants’ decisions should be respected due to the liberty in human right. But why do they wish to go? One of the motivations is that people want to explore a new world. Hannah Earnshaw, a PhD student who has an opportunity to be a finalist, said that she was interested in the human space exploration and therefore it was appealing to have a chance for her to be involved. Another reason is honour. Ryan Macdonald, a university student, said that traveling to Mars would be his legacy in life and his journey would be recorded in history. The above examples show that candidates are willing to pay for their own preferences, no matter what the price is.
Secondly, Mars One needs to gather massive resources to guarantee the success at one hand, deciding the project authorisation on the other. The Mars One project faced an ethical dilemma caused by public opinions due to high risk and offence on moral absolutism. However, candidate’s agreement to the norms of action balanced the concerns. To appease the public worries and minimise the risk, managers should provide enough resources, reasonable schedules and process supervision seriously. On top of public welfare, successful projects such as Apollo 11 by NASA had highly increased the sense of identity of Americans and country’s diplomatic power. These advantages then expanded to economy. It turned to develop potentials of relative projects and formed a successful loop while Mars One project will bring benefits to their organisation and country similar to what NASA did.
Thirdly, scientists and engineers are aiming to explore science and to utilise the results from exploration to favour the humanity respectively. In short term, new field of science could be established on Mars by the unique environment. For example, microgravity research was initiated for material science in International Space Station (ISS). As above, the research and development related to Mars One might be epochal. In long term, the Mars One plan will be much more than a step forward in science. It is promoting technical investigations in order to construct a suitable living environment for human in Mars. Once human can immigrate to Mars, there will be a subsequently change in civilisations, politics and sociologies. For instance, steam engine was an innovative invention leading to Industrial Revolution. It brought favourable outcomes to the world such as cargo, linkage of countries and lifestyles. Similarly, the application of science on Mars may play a vital role in reality and it will make contributions to the world. It can be adopted to generate new theories or products and hence lifestyle will be significantly different.
In the social aspect, since the public is considering the Mars One mission as ‘’suicide’’ intuitively due to its high risk, the organisation’s reputation and society viewing should be examined on top of the welfare of the crews before authorisation. Besides, if there is a serious problems occur in the mission, the society may reluctant to send crew to Mars. As a result, funding upon subsequence Mars mission will be dropped, the organisation will facing financial dilemma subsequently affect the reliability of mission. Furthermore other relative space project developments may also be restricted. In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster caused 7 astronauts died in the mission. After the disaster, NASA had stopped to launch the Space Shuttle and the construction of ISS had suspended for more than two years due to the public pressure. If an accident occurs in the Mars One space mission, the public will not willing to support the mission just like the case mentioned above.
In addition, the Mars One is not an urgent mission at this stage. Therefore, it is not worthy that the organisation to put their reputation in risk. Furthermore, the person makes such decision which risking others life, will suffer heavy mental pressure. The guiltiness and conscience-stricken brought by a mission disaster will expand the pressure further. Thus, the manager who has human nature will disagree the one way Mars One mission.
Based on the freedom principle, people have the right to commit suicide. However, the society still have the responsibility to rescue due to ethical logics. Besides, assisting someone to commit suicide is a serious crime and involves moral issue, engineers have the responsibility to stop and refuse involving some deadly project.
Referring to this case, it is clear that the technology requirement is substantially higher than existing science level. For example, the life support system should be sustainable without resupply for 26 months. It is 8.7 times longer than the one of ISS. In addition, it is a non-returnable plan, so providing continuous resupply will lead to enormous cost. However, the cost estimated by Mars One is 6 billion US dollars. Comparing to a similar NASA’s plan of 102 billion US dollars, Mars One plan is highly unreliable. The plan is also lack of essential techniques including transport vehicle, crew protection aids….etc.
It is clear that the technology and funding available now is not enough to support the project. A German former astronaut Ulrich Walter claim that the probability of reaching Mars alive was 30% and surviving on Mars more than three months was less than 20%. As the operation is highly dangerous and the back-up planning is insufficient, engineers should warn the participants and stop the project due to virtue ethics.
Group 7: Yu Lung Poon, Chan Kin Cheong, Ming Ho Hui, Chan Hok Chun