At #StartUpVillage2018 I managed to catch up with Bas Lansdorp from Mars One after his talk and we managed to chat about his talk on the day and about the missions to Mars coming up over the next 6 years. Read on to learn more:
This concept of Mars One how did it come about?
It wasn’t really a one step thing. Twenty years ago I decided I wanted to go to Mars. The seed of it was in my mind and I was a Mechanical Engineering student at the time. I looked on the internet as to what was available on Mars exploration at the time and I removed anything that had to do with return as I already knew that would probably be a waste of time and resources and much too hard to achieve. Then I of course graduated and went on to complete a PHD and during my PHD did a Moon, Mars Habitat Design course with the European Space Agency. It was then I then that looked up my old stuff and updated it.
In 2011 I worked on the idea for a business case, it was then decided that this really was possible. So it was really a number of steps before reaching Mars One.
In truth the real motivation however is, I want to go…
Do you think you can now achieve this realistically?
I think so yes. I won’t be on any of the first crews because I am exactly the wrong type of person to go. I am stubborn, I’m impatient, I’m easily annoyed and in my resume I would use different words but I think this currently makes me a good entrepreneur. These would be the worse qualities to bring on the first team but maybe when there is 20 or 30 people there then I can go.
I also have a family now which wasn’t there when I started Mars One and maybe I can bring them because I am the CEO?
The idea of walking on the surface of a planet where every rock you pick up, you know you are the first person to have EVER picked it up in the solar system. I find it mind boggling!
I was speaking with Jordan Evans quite recently of JPL at the Dublin Tech Summit. He was telling us about Mars 2020. Have you got any plans in place to get any research from them whilst they’re doing the trip?
All NASA data is publicly available so we can already use their data which is fantastically handy.
What I meant is that they also take up other peoples experiments..
I see, we’re not going to be ready in time to do that unfortunately and we really need to do our own missions. Our first mission will be 2022 to really prove to the world that we can do it. Right now we’re a Start Up with only 10 people, we need to grow our team, we need to grow our experience and we need to show to the world that we can do this. So far NASA is the only one that has landed something successfully on Mars and we need to be there too.
Our first priority is to show that we have this ability also by 2022 and then landing in 2023. This would be the first most important technological step for us.
You mentioned in your talk just now about the Astronaut suits used on the Moon. You also mentioned how they essentially collapsed after 3 days of use due to damage from Moon sand. Maybe you’ll be taking samples of suits on your mission and the Rover can take it out and see how it goes?
We expect to do that definitely and there is also a lot more known about the sand now because Rovers are already picking up sand and looking at it. There is a lot more known now than there was 10 years ago. Interestingly enough Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were only outside for a couple of hours and they were fine. However, when the last mission went up on the Moon, Apollo 17 the Astronauts have said to Mission Control that it was just as well they didn’t have any more oxygen to go outside as they didn’t feel comfortable going outside again due to the damage to the suits. They were only out for three days and they were concerned the suits would fail!
Don’t forget the moon has impacts so the rocks have shattered but they’re basically glass. They are so sharp that if you put glass on the ground or on the beach in Dublin and after a couple of days they are smoothed by wind and water. However, there is no erosion on the Moon and everything has been left very sharp.
What are the conditions on Mars in comparison?
We know there is no atmosphere on the Moon and there is 0.1% on Mars sorry 1% of Earths atmosphere. We not entirely sure what they effect of this gravity will have on Mars rock at this time. There is however wind on Mars, there’s motion and a very tiny amount of humidity which helps a lot but again we’re not currently sure what affect that will have on the sand.
You now have investors and a business plan, do you feel comfortable that you will make the 2022 deadline?
I don’t think the 2022 deadline is at risk at the moment. The tightest deadline for us currently would be the 2026 mission which is for the Rover and the Rover needs a lot of development time. This will also be the first time we use the Skilltop Manning System?? Those are two big engineering challenges and those would be on a much tighter deadline than our first unmanned mission.
The 2022 mission is derived from the NASA Phoenix mission, we have already talked with Lockheed Martin and asked if we can use the same platform that was used for the Phoenix. Lockheed Martin will build operate it and we want to same platform for our experiments.
Where would be the best place to look up your progress?
The best place to get out updates would be the Mars One website and just look up the News section for up-to-date information.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Bas, we look forward to learning more about your progress over the next few years!