One person to Mars, one-way

James C. McLane III in The Space Review:

265aTo put a human on Mars within the lifetime of America’s current generation, only one scheme is feasible, and this feasible concept challenges our traditional thinking about risk and the value of life. The mission must be a one-way trip. It’s possible that the crew might consist of only one person. For the first manned landing on Mars, there can be no provision for the space traveler to return to Earth. We should call such a solo mission the “Spirit of the Lone Eagle” in honor of Charles Lindbergh, the original “Lone Eagle” who flew solo across the Atlantic. The manned Mars mission (which could be arranged to occur in 2017, just 90 years after Lindbergh’s famous flight) will require a person of special ability who can accept a great challenge.

Return to Earth from the Martian surface is a daunting technical problem for which current technology offers no obvious solution. Realistically, there aren’t even any schemes based on futuristic technology that are likely to be perfected within the next 20 years. When we eliminate the need to launch off Mars, we remove the mission’s most daunting obstacle. Huge engineering challenges remain, but without a Mars launch, we can reasonably expect to devise a program that may be accomplished within the scope of current technology.

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