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Case: Volunteers for oneway ticket to Mars

Introduction - True Case

Exploration of Mars has been going on since 1965, when the first close-up picture of Mars were sent back by the Mariner 3 & 4 spacecraft 1. Today, there are rovers exploring Mars, and new discoveries are being made about our neighboring world regularly.

Several space agencies want to send human explorers to Mars, but there are many obstacles that need to be overcome first. In spite of the obstacles, a Dutch company called "Mars One" wants to start shuttling people to Mars in 2023. Right now they are asking for volunteers from all nations to be among the first four people to settle permanently on Mars. Yes, you read right - PERMANENTLY. There would be no coming back. The goal of this mission is to establish a permanent human colony on Mars in order to explore the planet and start using its resources.

The following article and video will give you a better idea of this mission.

Scenario 1: August 23, 2023

"Mars One" launches right on schedule, carrying the first four humans to Mars. After several months in space, the pioneers successfully land on Mars: two men and two women, each from a different continent.

People on earth are fascinated by the fact that they now can watch what's happening on Mars and are happy that everything went well so far. However, in the last 5 years there has been ongoing debate about what might happen to our human species from an evolutionary perspective if "Mars One" is successful. At the extreme opposite end of the discussion is "Mars Gone," an anti-migration group that is trying to block plans to send four more people to Mars in 2025.

1. What do you think the discussion is mainly about and what are your thoughts about how this mission could impact our human species from an evolutionary perspective?

Read the Clues
  • Isolated population
  • Different environment
  • Physiological changes
  • High radiation

2. What can we predict about the gene pool of the first Mars settlers? Does it has high or low genetic variability?
Read the CluesThere are only four people, but people from all nations.

3. What do you think will likely happen to the size of the gene pool? Will it increase, decrease, stay the same or shift?

Read the Clues

Points to consider:

  • New people are being sent to Mars every two years.
  • Harsh conditions on Mars could kill one or more colonists.

Scenario 2 - February 19, 3076

"Mars One" overcame initial opposition and continued ferrying new colonists to Mars until 2145, when the global economy was destabilized by several wars. Without money, the "Mars One" project cancels all future planned flights.

Fortunately the economic problems on Earth had little impact on the Martian colonists. From that colonizing group, the Mars population has grown steadily.

During the ~1000 years since Mars was settled, things have changed quite a bit. First the Mars people became independent from Earth supplies, then declared political independence. They no longer wanted to be watched and supervised by people on Earth.

Martian society is largely underground, where residents have have easier access to water and can avoid the high levels of radiation on Mars' surface.

During the ~1000 years of separation, human populations on Earth and on Mars have become quite distinct genetically as well.

1. What are the effects that shaped the Mars population's gene pool?

Read the Clues
  • Only a limited number of alleles were originally in the Mars population's gene pool
  • Few people were the start of a new population

2. What changes in the two gene pools would you expect to see? Why?

Read the Clues
  • You might be tempted to claim some wild new changes have evolved; is that realistic in 1000 years?
  • What changes are LIKELY to occur?


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Page last modified on Friday 07 of November, 2014 09:31:32 EST

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