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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Sol 12 (1.1.12)  11:56 PM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  15 January 2016  2:00 PM PST

ESEP logoThe Mars Missions are government funded operations from 23 different member countries that established the Earth Space Exploration Program (ESEP). Each country must fund two years of operations in advance, and must commit to funding for an additional five years. Current annual funding (2016) is $850 million/per country/per year and it increases by $50 million each year.

The countries are as follows:

  • Australia
  • Brasil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China (中国)
  • India (इंडिया)
  • Indonesia
  • Italy (Italia)
  • Germany (Deutschland)
  • France
  • Japan (日本)
  • Mexico (Méjico)
  • Netherlands (Nederland)
  • Nigeria
  • Panamá
  • Perú
  • Philippines (Pilipinas)
  • Saudi Arabia (المملكة العربية السعودية)
  • South Korea (대한민국)
  • Spain (España)
  • Thailand (ประเทศไทย)
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

No one country has more authority than any other and only scientists are allowed to be on the governing body. Russia is notably absent from the program because they did not accept the seven year funding commitment and the equal partnership of the member countries. China and the United States also hesitated; however, both countries found the funding formula allowed them to continue most of their current space programs, while taking part in the most significant space exploration effort in history.

The program is not a plan of several individual missions, but rather it is a series of overlapping missions with some people staying on Mars, while others return to Earth. Decisions of who is to stay and who will return are to be made in the months leading up to a return mission. In the case of the first mission, it is expected that only one-quarter to one-third of the crew will be members of the first return mission.

At least fifty percent of the crew from each mission will remain at Mars (on the surface or in orbit.) At least another twenty-five percent will remain longer than two return-to-Earth missions. Any crew members remaining at or on Mars for more than two return-to-Earth missions will have priority for the next return mission; however, no one is required to return to Earth unless the Mission Commander, the Mission Counselor, or the Mission Physician orders them to return.

The goal of the Earth Space Exploration Program is to follow the example of the International Space Station and provide ongoing occupation and exploration of Mars. It is projected that by the end of the first year on Mars we will have tripled our knowledge and understanding of space, space travel, living in space, and of the planet. By the end of the second year we will have doubled that knowledge of the first year, and by the end of the third year we will have a permanent, self sufficient, residency on Mars that will have established its own social, economic, and political identity. 

Decades ago Carl Sagan said, “Space calls to us…” We believe it’s time we answered that call.