Bas Lansdorp has big plans for Mars, not to mention the human race. By 2023, the Dutch entrepreneur intends to colonize the Red Planet in the first of a series of one-way human missions. It's all a part of Mars One, a project he founded, and one that he hopes will soon become a "global media spectacle."
Bas will be joining us here to take your questions about what inspires him, why he decided to found the Mars One Project, and why he thinks it will work. He'll be dropping by starting at 3PM ET/12PM PT, but feel free to start asking questions now!
I have always been interested in Space - as a kid I had Space Lego and I wanted to be an astronaut, but I had no special interest in Mars. I was generally interested in technology, mostly from an engineering point of view. To great frustration of my parents, I took apart anything that I could lay my hands on, I tried to ‘upgrade' my father's tools into other contraptions and my greatest success was a crossbow that shot a dart straight through a dart board. I quickly took it apart.
In school subjects like math and physics were not difficult for me. After high school I studied mechanical engineering at Twente University. During my studies I became interested in space travel, through science fiction and through news around the Mars Pathfinder mission. The Pathfinder mission really piqued my interest and eventually made me wonder if we could send humans to Mars.
I started making a mission design and doing calculations, from the start excluding the return mission back to Earth. I always thought the return mission was too complex, too costly and too risky. The largest part of the cost, complexity and need for new technology for all human Mars missions comes from the return trip requirement.
This Mars mission design was something I did next to studying, but at some point I gave up on this plan. After all, where would a third year university student get the billions needed to do even a one way Mars mission?
After obtaining my M.Sc. in 2003, I started a PhD on airborne wind energy at Delft University of Technology. In 2006 I participated in the European Space Agency Moon Mars habitat design workshop. This renewed my interest in Mars and I looked up my old calculations and designs and started working on them again. For months, I spent the weekends and evenings on my mission to Mars, finally coming to the conclusion that I still did not know how to finance it.
In 2008 I abandoned my PhD to found my first company: Ampyx Power. Ampyx Power develops a machine to generate electricity from the wind with a tethered aircraft. By the end of 2010, someone reminded me of my Mars plans and I decided to sit with Mars One co-founder Arno Wielders to discuss possible ways to fund a mission to Mars. We contacted Paul Römer, the inventor of the Big Brother TV show, to talk about possible revenues of ‘media attention'. After our presentation, Paul said: "If it is really possible to send humans to Mars, you can make it into the biggest media event in the world".
For me this was the missing piece of the puzzle, and Arno and I decided to go for it. In February 2011, I told my colleagues at Ampyx Power about my Mars plans and sold part of my shares in Ampyx Power to finance the start up period of Mars One. We contacted potential supplier companies around the world and visited them to discuss our plan. We adapted our plan to their suggestions, we gathered a group of influential ambassadors and advisers and we built our website. At the end of May 2012 we announced our plans to the world and since then millions of people have heard about our plan. Our plan is technically feasible and backed by a solid business plan. I am investing my time and my money in Mars One because I know we can make this happen!