For those who are willing to literally fall off the face of the Earth a Dutch company makes a unique offer, that is, to relocate to Mars. However, there is a little addendum to this generous proposition: it has to be a life-long vacation.

According to an announcement, made by The Mars One foundation Tuesday, it has engaged suppliers for an upcoming 2018 unmanned mission. Among the devices provided are robotic lander and a communications satellite. Lockheed Martin is in charge of building the lander, while Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. is focused on the satellite construction.

The first mission is specifically designed to test the technology which would be servicing the first human settlement on Mars. If the tests are successful then the first people on Mars might land in 2025.

According to a statement of Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp, the interest toward the program has been enormous ever since it was first announced with over 200, 000 people filing their applications. The people seem to not mind the fact they are never coming home – a trip made impossible by the absence of a launch platform on the Red Planet, but, on the bright side, this fact significantly reduces the cost of the journey. For the moment the applications have been submitted and the company is planning on notifying the lucky ones by the end of the year that they have made it to the second round.

Lansdorp said that the unmanned mission is the “most important and most difficult step of actually getting humans to Mars.” At the same time, it is going to be the first privately funded space mission. Ed Sedivy, a chief engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said, “The opportunity to participate in that is just really exciting.”

Lansdorp hopes to receive the major share of funding for his project in the form of donations from sponsors and partners, as opposed to public contributions. The cost of the lander and satellite has not yet been established, however, the ballpark figure has already been estimated by Mars one, Lansdorp said.

NASA Phoenix mission has served as prototype for the lander, Lansdorp said. The Mars One probe will consist of a robotic arm with a camera to be shooting continuous video and a water experiment featuring the water production on Mars.

The mission will also bring with it winners of the international university science contest. The winning projects will get an opportunity to be carried out on Mars. Aside from serous scientific findings, Lansdorp wants to see several “fun” experiments, among which is sending a balloon with a camera attached to it to film Mars from an altitude of 200 to 500 meters – something never done before. In the meantime, the communications satellite will provide live video feed from surface of Mars to Earth, representing the first Mars synchronous communications satellite.

Originally, the first humans were planned to be sent over to the Red Planet in 2023, but the project has been delayed. After the first humans have arrived, the plan is to send new crews over, with the number of people gradually growing as soon as the means of transportation are designed to hold more people. According to Sedivy, it would take them nearly 3½ years from commitment to initiating a preliminary design to launch, so they’re left with about a year to study the actual concept.

As far as funding is concerned, Mars One is considering various scenarios. The total budget for the project is an estimated $6 billion. According to Lansdorp, who kept the amount secured by partners secret, the donations amounted to over $200,000…. see more

source: france24