There's a debate taking place about send people to Mars. One group advocates a voyage that includes provisions to bring the astronauts back to earth. Another group is advocating one-way trips, which would be much less expensive and possible with today's technology.
See Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars for an overview of the debate.
Invoking the spirit of "Star Trek" in a scholarly article entitled "To Boldly Go," two scientists contend human travel to Mars could happen much more quickly and cheaply if the missions are made one-way. They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return.In my view, anything other than one-way missions are foolish to consider given their cost and complexity. And, if people are willing to go--and I suspect there would be many volunteers--then we should do it. Perhaps a consortium of private and public resources would make it happen sooner than later.An official for NASA said the space agency envisions manned missions to Mars in the next few decades, but that the planning decidedly involves round trips.
President Obama informed NASA last April that he "`believed by the mid-2030s that we could send humans to orbit Mars and safely return them to Earth. And that a landing would soon follow,'" said agency spokesman Michael Braukus.
No where did Obama suggest the astronauts be left behind.
"We want our people back," Braukus said.
Retired Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, who walked on the Moon, was also critical of the one-way idea.
"This is premature," Mitchell wrote in an e-mail. "We aren't ready for this yet."
Davies and Schulze-Makuch say it's important to realize they're not proposing a "suicide mission."
Lastly, while today a mission that included a return flight would be enormously difficult, in coming years as Mars was colonized and local resources developed returns flights may become less daunting.