CSIRO Tweetup last November for the launch of the Mars Curiosity rover, Australian geologist and rover landing site expert Marion Anderson asked us that question. With no context, very few people said yes.
But after some thought about it being a trip - albeit one-way - to establish a new colony rather than just a suicide mission to explore then die, I wasn't so willing to discount the possibility.
Like many, I spent hours reading Kim Stanley Robinson's epic Red Mars trilogy, imagining myself in that first colonising expedition.
First the robotic factory missions to start mining ores, and then producing water, oxygen and metals, plastics and other materials.
|Visions of a terraformed Mars|
So while many were quick to dismiss this week's news of Mars One: a new venture to assemble the first permanent Mars colony, I was more intrigued than scoffing. That the proposal came from Holland was unexpected though.
Here is their plan:
2013: Mars One will build a replica of the Mars settlement on an Earth desert to help the astronauts prepare and train, and for a realistic environment in which to test the equipment. The astronaut selection and the preparations in the simulated Mars base will be broadcast on television and online for the public to view.
2016: The supply mission will be launched for Mars in January 2016. It will land on the Red Planet in October 2016 with its cargo of 2500 kilograms of food or other supplies. It will land close to where the outpost is expected to be.
2018: A robotic exploration vehicle will land on Mars to join the supply Lander. While the general location of the outpost will be known, the rover's task is to find the best spot in that area. You will be able to join it on its mission thanks to the live video being streamed back to Earth.
2021: Sees all the parts and features of the settlement reaching their destination. Two living units, two life support units, a second supplies unit and another rover in total. The two rovers take all components to the settlement location and prepare for the arrival of the astronauts.
2022: All water, oxygen and atmosphere production will be ready by early 2022, which is when the Earth crew gets a go-ahead for the launch of team one. Each component of the Mars transit vehicle is launched into a low orbit, and linked together. September 14, 2022 goes down in history as the first four astronauts are launched on their journey after last checks. Every part of this adventure will be available to watch on our website, 24/7.
2023: Our astronauts land in 2023 – the first people to ever set foot on Mars! They are picked up by the rovers, and link the other landers together. They set up the remaining solar panels, and begin their epic exploration. They will also research Mars’ history and any possible past life it hosted, as well as looking into present matters of interest, like how do Earth plants behave on Mars?
2025: June of 2025 is when the second group lands. They are received by their predecessors, who have completed the construction of their living habitats in which both groups take up residence. The second group have also brought new hardware with them, opening up even more possibilities. An example could be a bigger Rover, which enables them to discover even more of their new home planet.So there you have it - heavy on ambition, light on details and evidence. And heavy on the emphasis on media coverage. Fair enough too - it is something that NASA has traditionally been a bit iffy on. But they way they present it does tend a bit much towards memories of The Truman Show...
They are already outlining details of an astronaut recruitment program. But they are going to have to do a bit better job than this video introduction to rope me in! I'm interested; I subscribed; but I'm not yet convinced...