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Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Supports Sending Man To Mars On One-way Ticket [VIDEO]

Apr 15, 2013 01:46 PM EDT
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Sending humans to Mars has long been a fascination for generations of space enthusiasts, but sheer distance is only one of myriad factors keeping the dream from becoming reality. But one Mars-bound organization has a novel, if not sobering, approach to getting man to the Red Planet: make it a one-way ride.

In a recent interview with The New Scientist, Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Gerard 't Hooft explained why he is an ambassador for Mars One, an organization with a bankroll from a reality TV empire and the bold mission of sending humans on a one-way mission to Mars.

Hooft has some lofty credentials including the 1999 Nobel honor he shared with his thesis advisor for his research on "elucidating the quantum structure of the electroweak interactions in physics," the prestigious Wolf Prize and the highest scientific honors bestowed by his native Netherlands. The blog HobbySpace calls Hooft a "member of the uppermost echelon of theoreticians of the past few decades."

Hooft said that after the co-founder and general director of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, showed him the amount of research already carried out to make a manned Mars mission possible, he "became convinced that human flights to Mars could become a reality within 10 years.

The mission, Hooft said in the interview, "is about whether we are able to survive in a whole new environment-in a small community and a micro-ecosystem, growing our own food and building almost everything from scratch. In a sense, it will be comparable to what human explorers did in the prehistoric age."

He said more than 40,000 people have applied for a mission where the ultimate goal is a community of 20 settlers.

When asked if he would take a one-way trip to Mars himself, Hooft got hung up on the terminal nature of the mission.

"I would love to go to Mars, but not being able to return would be a big obstacle for me," he said. "Even if return flights were offered in the future, it would be almost impossible for the first settlers to go back: Spending many years in the much lower gravity of Mars will have an irreversible effect on bone and muscle strength."

But he didn't rule out the possibility of seeing Mars for himself.

"Maybe when I am much older I will not mind leaving Earth for good. My chances of being selected are probably negligible-I would just be a clumsy old man, getting in everyone's way."

The New Scientist article is behind a paywall, but the complete interview with Hooft is reprinted on Slate.com.

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