The nonprofit company Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by 2025. Pictured is an artist's rendering of a series of habitats. Solar panels (in the foreground), would supply the colony's electricity, while a system to extract water from the soil (in the background) would supply drinking water. Image: Courtesy of Bryan Versteeg/Mars One
The nonprofit company Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by 2025. Pictured is an artist’s rendering of a series of habitats. Solar panels (in the foreground), would supply the colony’s electricity, while a system to extract water from the soil (in the background) would supply drinking water. Image: Courtesy of Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

According to a new analysis by a team of MIT engineers, the Mars One plan to send humans on a one-way trip to Mars is doomed to failure.

Mars One, a nonprofit organization, aims to send four people to begin colonizing the Red Planet using existing technology by 2024. According to its plan, additional teams would arrive on the planet every two years. Colonists would grow their own food on indoor farms and harvest drinking water from the planet.

The MIT team created a “settlement-analysis tool” to simulate what would be required to sustain life on another planet. According to its results, a number of new technologies need to be developed to make a Mars colony feasible.

One of the biggest obstacles identified by the study? A reliable food source. Graduate student Sydney Do says the farming system proposed by Mars One would require a large growing area—four times larger than the current Mars One projection—and that oxygen produced by the plants would create a fire hazard.

“We found carrying food is always cheaper than growing it locally,” Do told MIT News. “On Mars, you need lighting and watering systems, and for lighting, we found it requires 875 LED systems, which fail over time. So you need to provide spare parts for that, making the initial system heavier.”

The need to continually import spare parts and equipment would become prohibitively expensive. Andrew Owens, another graduate student who participated in the study, says 3-D printing could alleviate the need to transport parts, but the technology hasn’t advanced that far yet.

In spite of the challenges outlined by the MIT study, the researchers are still optimistic about the possibility of sending humans to Mars. As Owens explained to the LA Times, “It’s not that Mars colonization is infeasible; it is just that technology development will be required to make it feasible.”

Read the team’s full report.

Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp spoke to Popular Science about the MIT study.

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