(POPULAR MECHANICS) – Earlier this week, Elon Musk said there’s a “good chance” settlers in the first Mars missions will die. And while that’s easy to imagine, he and others are working hard to plan and minimize the risk of death by hardship or accident. In fact, the goal is to have people comfortably die on Mars after a long life of work and play that, we hope, looks at least a little like life on Earth.
There are already major structural questions about how humans will settle on Mars. How will we aim Musk’s planned hundreds of Starships at Mars during the right times for the shortest, safest trips? How will a spaceship turn into something that safely lands on the planet’s surface? How will astronauts reasonably survive a yearlong trip in cramped, close quarters where maximum possible volume is allotted to supplies?
And all of that is before anyone even touches the surface.
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Then there are logistical reasons to talk about potential Mars settlers in, well, actuarial terms. First, the trip itself will take a year based on current estimates, and applicants to settlement programs are told to expect this trip to be one way.