Mars One planning December 10 announcement about robotic Mars mission

Mars One, the Dutch organization that has proposed sending humans to Mars on commercially-funded one-way trips, announced yesterday that it will be holding a press conference in Washington on December 10 to make an announcement “regarding the first private robotic mission to Mars.” That announcement will be made jointly with Lockheed Martin and “Surrey Satellite Systems Limited” (an apparent reference to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a British company best known as a leading developer of small satellites.) Mars One will also use the press conference to “share new information on its public involvement activities leading up to this mission.”

The idea of Mars One doing a robotic Mars mission as some kind of precursor to its later human missions is not new. The Mars One architecture calls for a 2016 “demonstration mission” that would land on Mars to perform a “proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a human mission.” Mars One also proposes sending a communications relay orbiter in that same launch window.

In an interview during the Humans To Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington in May, Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp said that Mars One had been in discussions with Lockheed about the mission. “We can do a mission with a copy of hardware that has already been used,” he said, suggesting as one possibility the landing platform used for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, which landed on Mars in January 2004. “We’re getting in contact with Lockheed. We’re doing that, but it’s still preliminary discussions that are going on.” At that time, he said, the use of such hardware was a backup to doing a mission with hardware closer to what they want to use for later crewed missions, which make use of capsules derived from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Lansdorp said in May they were in discussions about using SpaceX hardware for that 2016 mission, but had no contract in place with them yet.

Beyond the technical challenges of mounting a mission in about two years—the launch window opens in early 2016—is how much such a mission would cost, and Mars One would fund it. The least expensive (and successful) recent Mars lander mission was NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander, which cost $386 million including launch. It made significant use of hardware built for a 2001 Mars lander mission that was cancelled after the Mars Polar Lander failure, lowering its cost. (The British Beagle 2 lander, which hitched a ride to Mars on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter mission, cost about £50 million (US$80 million), but crashed.) As the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams have demonstrated, raising even tens of millions of dollars for a lunar lander mission is difficult; raising significantly more for a Mars mission, on a very tight schedule, will be even more demanding.

15 comments to Mars One planning December 10 announcement about robotic Mars mission

  • Stuart

    I am very interested to ascertain what the announcement will actually be in the press conference on the 10th December.

    I agree that if they intend to keep to their publicised “road map” it has to be an announcement regarding a 2016 “demonstration mission”.

    Being a pessimist regarding Mars One it could be an announcement regarding an alteration to the original “road map” due to unforeseen circumstances.

    Do we know yet if there will be a live feed and what time the announcement will be?

  • Mader Levap

    Will they run to NASA crying like Inspiration Mars did?

    Not that these two venture weren’t inane fantasy in first place…

  • I would love to see Mars One succeed, but I am very suspicious. There schedule does not seem even remotely plausible to me. If they were launching in 2016 wouldn’t they need to already be on a launch manifest somewhere? Are they? I don’t think so.

    Do you think it is realistic for them to build a lander for 2016 if they start on 12/10/2013, or if they just started?

  • Brian Hinson

    Both Mars One and Inspiration Mars have generated a lot of public attention and internet discourse about traveling to Mars. That by itself is a form of success, and I welcome the attention and dialog generated. Going around calling such dream-worthy endeavors “BS” is about as noble a me posting a picture of my butt.

    • Mader Levap

      “Dream-worthy endeavor” is worthless if it is just made up fantasy. As other noted, it taints more serious endeavors and make life harder for other folks like SpaceX.

  • @Brian Hinson

    It is true that both Mars One and Inspiration Mars have generated a lot of publicity, however if it turns out that both a just hype that will not help us. It will make those how try to create a serious project look suspicious by association. Sadly both those projects do not look like they will go anywhere at the moment. I fear that mot of the public will take these as examples if a serious humans to Mars project ever comes up. Hence my questions.

    I will watch with interest for the Mars One announcement, but I doubt they can succeed with their original mission.

  • It does seem unlikely they will be able to succeed with their original mission on the proposed schedule. Certainly the cost would be astronomical. Either way, it would still be interesting to see a robotic mission to Mars in the near future.

  • Rickstar

    I am really looking forward to the December 10 announcement.
    I am hopeful that Mars-One’s announcement will set us on a path for Mars,in the 2020’s.
    I realistically,have my own doubts about them making the launch date in September 2022,but I really hope I am wrong,& that they do make it,of course.
    Even if they have to launch in 2024,or 2026,or even 2028,it will still be the next giant leap for humankind,when they do:-)

  • This sort of thing is interesting from a cultural point of view – the social impact of spaceflight, for example. But in terms of engineering and economics, these efforts are unrealistic. Few in the industry take them seriously in terms of their potential to actually get off the ground.

    On a personal level, it bothers me that Mars remains a key destination for many, including those who should know better, when we haven’t sent humans on long-term missions beyond LEO. The arrogance to presume that sending people to Mars with our current level of technology and spaceflight experience, not to mention the more difficult variables of psychology, economics, political will, and so forth, means almost certain failure. The good news is that the failure will happen well in advance of a launch, meaning no one will be killed or stranded. The bad news is that these concepts betray a childlike wonderment that isn’t worthy of praise; space will swallow up the naive astronaut faster than the sea will of reckless aquanauts…

  • z940912

    If millenia of history is any indication, don’t expect cynics to be satisfied until someone in their immediate family goes to Mars and sends a video back making fun of them. Until then, people who have never read through the plans or know who the technical leaders and advisors are for the mission will proudly proclaim that they know it will be a failure. They make us all proud.

  • Produce MARS ONE MOVIE for just 1€
    WE WANT YOU!! – JOIN US at
    See trailer at:

  • Now they say they have pushed their first mission back to 2018. That might be plausible, barley. They started and crowdfunding campaign: I might just contribute.

    I still doubt they can make this happen, and I am not sure they really want to. I do hope to see humans on Mars in my lifetime.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>