ExWeb Special: Explorers going to Mars...in Alpine style

Posted: Jun 25, 2007 05:02 pm EDT

(Pythom.com) Lightweight adventurers discovered the farthest corners of our Earth. Vikings sailed and rowed to Greenland, and probably America, in tiny ships long before Columbus. Amundsen's skinny approach won him the South Pole.

Is it really likely that the Egyptians would just stop build their marvels?

Thor Heyerdahl showed it possible that Egyptians crossed the Atlantic on a papyrus boat to Central America, teaching the locals how to build pyramids.

But Heyerdahl couldn't explain why American pyramids are totally different from Egyptian; and much younger. Is it really likely that the Egyptians and their ancestors would just stop building their marvels? And not try again for thousands of years; until they'd almost forgotten how? Today, we know that - yes - it is possible. Ask Griffin how come NASA forgot how we built the rockets that once took us to the moon.

Shipton refusing the Everest heavy lift

And let's not forget Shipton, who was a team-member on all four Everest expeditions during the 1930s. What now embodies pure alpinism, in Shiptons times was almost blasphemy - but still he found the route that Hillary and Tenzing would follow to the top of the world 20 years later.

Shipton was fired from the actual summit expedition, exactly for refusing the heavy lift approach. Leaving today's mountaineers to wonder if he and Tenzing - had they got the chance - could have achieved the goal much cheaper than the British assault.

Reaching the target is what counts

Explorers push not only geographical but also human boundaries. Incredible alpine style ascents are done all over Himalaya these days. In the polar areas some years back, Rune and Torry's unassisted 108-days crossing of the Arctic Ocean proved the impossible wrong. Alain Bombard's crossing of the Atlantic in an inflatable boat without any provisions at all in the 1950s was yet another example that survival is more a question of knowledge and determination, rather than huge resources.

The pioneers are not reckless. Safety is always a concern. They will adapt new technology - but only if it works. They prefer proven, simple solutions. They will invent - but only if they must. Showcasing smarts is not their bag; reaching the target is what counts.

Mars, Alpine style

This is exactly the approach that has been missing in space exploration. We threw out rockets that took us to the moon; because we wanted to build something smarter. The shuttle fleet a result of that: An engineering marvel taking us nowhere.

It's clear that human space exploration is at a standstill. Nations and governments engage only tentative visions for human Mars missions. Vague talks concern mostly our return to the moon - and plans span timeframes 20-30 years from now.

It's clear that if we want to go - we'll have to do it the Amundsen way. So how would he have approached the task? The way we still do today. We ask where, when and how.

The target is set: We want to go to Mars. We know that the expedition will take around 1000 days. We know that trajectories show 2014 as a good expedition starting date. Now, we need to find means to get there and back. And start packing our sleds.

Not a first; a beginning

Some of you might already be aware that ExplorersWeb's founders plan a serious attempt to reach the planet in exactly this way. That's why Pythom.com was set up a few years back.

We want to take you along for the ride. This is not intended as another empty milestone; not to be repeated in another 100 years. Mars is not a first, it's the beginning. We hope that the way we do it will throw Space wide open to you - our fellow explorers. That's why, above all, we'll fight to travel lightweight and cheap.

Maybe we'll make it and maybe we won't. But the challenge is on the table, and we promise you this: Today, we put all our credibility at stake for the dream and now we'll spend the rest of our lives to realize it. There's no turning back. So let's get the ball rolling.

ExplorersWeb founders, US residents Tom and Tina Sjogren are planning a private mission to Mars. The expedition preparations have a hands-on, simple exploration approach and will be openly reported.

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