Journal of Cosmology, they have a whole issue dedicated to getting humans on Mars - a fine and laudable goal. Mars is a funky wee planet, and although its atmosphere is extremely tenuous, the surface temperatures forbidding, and a fair bit smaller than Earth, it is at least sufficiently Earth-like for us to consider the possibilities of setting up shop there until we get it properly terraformed (should that be possible).
One problem is that sending astronauts there involves getting them back again - effectively you have to put in place on Mars, from Earth, the infrastructure to launch a mission to Earth. That is a rather tall order.
Step in Paul Davies (Arizona State University, renowned cosmologist, all round good bloke and great thinker, even if he is a little fluffy round the edges on the whole "god" issue) and Dirk Schulze-Makuck (Washington State University, with whom I am less familiar) are proposing that the initial missions should be one-way, with the explicit goal of establishing a foothold for a future self-sustaining Mars-based civilisation. They would be able to carry out a great deal of ground-based research, construction (using materials shipped from Earth), fuel generation, materials development etc, and essentially set the scene for further larger-scale missions.
Of course the disadvantages would be that you would never see Earth and your family ever again (apart from over the data-link with several minutes' delay, or via a telescope), and you wouldn't have access to many healthcare resources, and your lifespan might be reduced as a result. But if such a mission were to be proposed, I don't think they would be lacking in volunteers, and some of them might even make the psych profile. One possibility is to send up veteran astronauts - like in the movie Space Cowboys - because Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Cooper are expendable, should anything go wrong... And the older chaps have the life experience and Right Stuff to make it work. No Zimmer frames on Mars, though.
Would you volunteer?
We've done it again! This time we biked from Petra in Jordan up to Nazareth in Israel, to raise money for the Nazareth Hospital CT Scanner appeal. Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel, but they still don't have a dedicated Stroke Unit to cope with this devastating condition and major cause of death. Click here to find out more, and please help this fantastic cause. Thanks!