Mission to Mars: Businessman plans private venture to the Red Planet - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 28 February

A US millionaire is organising a mission to Mars that will involve two astronauts spending more than a year in a capsule the size of a toilet cubicle. The pair - probably a married couple - will brave the dangers of extreme boredom, muscle wastage and intense radiation from the sun.


Mission to Mars: Businessman plans private venture to the Red Planet

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 28 February


Irena Barker

A US millionaire is organising a mission to Mars that will involve two astronauts spending more than a year in a capsule the size of a toilet cubicle. The pair – probably a married couple – will brave the dangers of extreme boredom, muscle wastage and intense radiation from the sun.

And, for their pains, the pioneers will not even land on the red planet: the capsule will swing around Mars at a distance of 100 miles, before starting its potentially tedious return to Earth.

US millionaire Dennis Tito, who became the world’s first space tourist when he paid £13 million for a trip to the International Space Station in 2001, is keen to raise funds for the trip, which launches in 2018. But since the mission is not even going to touch down on Mars, what is the point in risking people’s lives? Is this merely a vanity project – or something more?

Anu Ojha, director of the UK National Space Academy, said there would be very little return in terms of understanding Mars, but that the mission would “rewrite the textbooks” in terms of understanding how the human body reacts to different situations.

And if a married couple do agree to make the journey, marriage guidance counsellors and psychologists the world over will be fascinated by the data logs.

Others have questioned the wisdom of space exploration when there are so many environmental and social problems to solve on Earth. The global recession has forced governments to look down at their balance sheets rather than up through their telescopes. In 2013, the proportion of US spending put over to funding Nasa was expected to be less than 0.5 per cent, compared with 4.41 per cent in 1965 as it prepared for the historic Apollo moon landings.

But globally there is still a big appetite for space, and the reluctance to invest in manned space flights has led to private businesses promising to conduct missions.

The new Golden Spike company aims to offer trips to the moon by 2020, at a cost of around a billion pounds. Rapidly industrialising countries such as India are expected to pay for the kudos of placing their feet on the lunar surface.

For individuals with a mere £100,000 to spare, the first commercial flight of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is due to travel into space later this year.

Meanwhile, for ordinary people with no cash to spare, there are always reruns of the BBC’s Wonders of the Universe.



Questions for your class


  • What challenges do you think people would face being in a space the size of a toilet cubicle for a year?
  • Some people question whether we should be spending money on space travel when there are problems to be solved on Earth. Do you agree?
  • Why do you think that there is globally "a big appetite for space"?
  • Imagine that you are launching a space tourism company. How would you promote your trips? Think of slogans, posters and advertisement ideas.

Related resources


Space

  • Explore Space, infinity and beyond with Buzz Lightyear. A selection of PowerPoint-based resources.

Solar System Dominos

  • Learn about the Solar System in a fun and entertaining way with this activity.

Living on Mars

  • Take pupils through some issues that go with living on Mars and ask them to design an information poster.

Space tourism

  • Consider the impact of Space tourism and send a postcard from another planet.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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