From the NY Times: SYDNEY, Australia — President Bush's announcement yesterday that the United States will soon be pointing its rockets toward Mars will doubtless be greeted with delight by space scientists. After all, there are plenty of good reasons to mount such a trip. For a start, Mars is one of the few accessible places beyond Earth that could have sustained life. Though a freeze-dried desert today, it was once warm and wet, with lakes, rivers, active volcanoes and a thick atmosphere — all conditions conducive to life. Microbes might even remain alive there, lurking in liquid aquifers deep beneath the permafrost. If life began from scratch on both Mars and Earth separately, then evidence for a second genesis would await us, providing a heaven-sent opportunity to compare two bio-systems and learn how life emerges from non-life. And if life were found to have started twice within the solar system, it would signal that the laws of nature are inherently bio-friendly, implying a universe teeming with life. An alternative possibility is that life started on Mars and spread to Earth inside material blasted into space by the impact of comets crashing into the Martian surface. Mars and Earth trade rocks, and hardy bacteria could have hitched a ride to seed our planet with microbial Martians. Just possibly the journey was reversed, with life starting on Earth and hopping to Mars. Though such cross-contamination would compromise hopes of identifying a genuine second sample of life, it would still represent a biological bonanza, enabling scientists to study two versions of evolution. The economic and practical benefits would be incalculable. Mars is alluring in another respect. Alone among our sister planets, it is able to support a permanent human presence. As Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society has remarked, it is the second safest place in the solar system. Its thin atmosphere provides a measure of protection against meteorites and radiation. Crucially, there is probably the water, carbon dioxide and minerals needed to sustain a colony. And yet the scientific community's enthusiasm will surely be tempered by skepticism. Scientists, it's worth remembering, rejoiced when President George H. W. Bush unveiled a Mars project in 1989. The same scientists then despaired when the plan quickly evaporated amid spiraling projected costs and shifting priorities. Of course, the project's demise should not have surprised anyone. Back then, a manned expedition to Mars came with a price tag of of more than $400 billion, a sum that makes the cost of the Apollo Moon landings seem like small change. Why is going to Mars so expensive? Mainly it's the distance from Earth. At its closest point in orbit, Mars lies 35 million miles away from us, necessitating a journey of many months, whereas reaching the Moon requires just a few days' flight. On top of this, Mars has a surface gravity that, though only 38 percent of Earth's, is much greater than the Moon's. It takes a lot of fuel to blast off Mars and get back home. If the propellant has to be transported there from Earth, costs of a launching soar. Without some radical improvements in technology, the prospects for sending astronauts on a round-trip to Mars any time soon are slim, whatever the presidential rhetoric. What's more, the president's suggestion of using the Moon as a base — a place to assemble equipment and produce fuel for a Mars mission less expensively — has the potential to turn into a costly sideshow. There is, however, an obvious way to slash the costs and bring Mars within reach of early manned exploration. The answer lies with a one-way mission. More here... (free registration required) I copied a large chunk because of the registration. I figure if you want to read the rest, then you should register. It is free Okay, um, now about the article... "The answer lies with a one-way mission"? I know that I might jump at the chance to go into space and maybe even Mars, but a one-way mission? Guess the good thing would be that you won't receive phone calls from those pesky telemarketers or bill collectors anymore.