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Surprising Science

One-Way Trips to Mars

Humans could be walking on Mars within the next couple decades, for only a fraction of the cost if explorers are given one-way tickets. It's not a suicide mission, say cosmologists.

The most costly and tricky part of any manned space mission is providing life-support for its human crew: food, oxygen, and protection from radiation and other hazards of space travel. On a human mission to Mars, most of the cost—some 80 percent of it—would involve returning the crew. Rather than quintuple the cost, those funds could go toward building a permanent settlement. After several unmanned missions drop supplies at a base station on the Red Planet, two spacecraft carrying two humans each would be sent on the six- to eight-month voyage to Mars to begin the first human colony on another planet.

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