Nasa unveils bold plans to send humans ‘one-way to Mars to colonise planet’

Humans could be sent one-way to Mars under ambitious plans being investigated by Nasa to permanently colonise other planets in space.

By Andrew Hough – The Telegraph UK

Space agency officials confirmed feasability studies were under way to asses whether astronauts could be permanently sent to the red planet, or its moons, to establish human colonies.
The multi-billion pound mission, titled Hundred Years Starship, is being spearheaded by the Ames Research Centre, one of Nasa’s main research centres, based in Moffett Field, California.

Officials from the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are also heavily involved in turning the science fiction idea into a reality.
Early estimates put the cost of such a mission, which has “just started” at more than £7 billion and could be achieved by 2030.
Scientists have been given £600,000 government grant – including £100,000 from Nasa – to start research into the idea, according to US reports.

The world’s billionaire’s, including Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, have been asked to help fund the project.
Pete Worden, the Ames director, confirmed the plans to a conference in San Francisco at the weekend.
“You heard it here. We hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund,” he told the Long Conversation event at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds. Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.
“Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds.”
Such a space journey would take up to nine months with volunteers embarking on the mission knowing they would never return to earth.
This is because the cost of returning astronauts to earth would make the project prohibitively expensive. Supplies would be sent to make them self-sufficient.

Such a mission would be gruelling for humans with forbidding conditions including sub-zero temperatures and a thin atmosphere.
Mr Worden said Mr Page was keenly interested in the project.
“Larry asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion and his response was, ‘can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion’,” he said.
“So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price.”
But he admitted that he did not know how such a mission would work in reality.

“How do you live in another world? I don’t have the slightest idea,” he said.
“If you’re a conservative, you worry about it killing us; if you’re a liberal, you worry about us killing it.
“I think things like synthetic biology have lot of potential for that. I think rather than make an environment on Mars like Earth, why don’t we modify life … including the human genome … so it’s better suited to [Mars]?”

A DARPA spokesman later confirmed details of the mission.
“A key element of the study is exploring models by which sustained co-investment by the private sector in these areas can be incentivised,” he said.
“The study is currently in the early formulation stage, but will be entirely open and unclassified, with more details forthcoming in early 2011.”
It comes as researchers claimed such a human mission was technologically feasible and was cheaper returning astronauts to earth.
Their new study, in the Journal of Cosmology, found the costs of safely returning a crew would eat up the majority of such a mission’s budget.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, from Washington State University and Paul Davies, from Arizona State University, said four volunteer astronauts could undertake the first mission to permanently colonise Mars.
“A one-way human mission to Mars would not be a fixed duration project as in the Apollo program, but the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet,” they said.
“There are many reasons why a human colony on Mars is a desirable goal, scientifically and politically.
“The strategy of one-way missions brings this goal within technological and financial feasibility.”
They added: “Nevertheless, to attain it would require not only major international co-operation but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays being replaced with a culture of safety and political correctness.”
Such a mission would come with natural “ethical considerations”, they admitted.

Ministers plan huge sell-off of Britain’s forests

Ministers are planning a massive sell-off of Britain’s Government-owned forests as they seek to save billions of pounds to help cut the deficit, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

By Patrick Hennessy and Rebecca Lefort Published:  The Telegraph UK

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to announce plans within days to dispose of about half of the 748,000 hectares of woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission by 2020. The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies.

Legislation which currently governs the treatment of “ancient forests” such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest is likely to be changed giving private firms the right to cut down trees.

Laws governing Britain’s forests were included in the Magna Carta of 1215, and some date back even earlier.

Conservation groups last night called on ministers to ensure that the public could still enjoy the landscape after the disposal, which will see some woodland areas given to community groups or charitable organisations.

However, large amounts of forests will be sold as the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) seeks to make massive budget savings as demanded in last week’s Spending Review.

Whitehall sources said about a third of the land to be disposed of would be transferred to other ownership before the end of the period covered by the Spending Review, between 2011 and 2015, with the rest expected to go by 2020.

A source close to the department said: “We are looking to energise our forests by bringing in fresh ideas and investment, and by putting conservation in the hands of local communities.”

Unions vowed to fight the planned sell-off. Defra was one of the worst-hit Whitehall departments under the Spending Review, with Ms Spelman losing around 30 per cent of her current £2.9 billion annual budget by 2015.

The Forestry Commission, whose estate was valued in the 1990s at £2.5 billion, was a quango which was initially thought to be facing the axe as ministers drew up a list of arms-length bodies to be culled.

However, when the final list was published earlier this month it was officially earmarked: “Retain and substantially reform – details of reform will be set out by Defra later in the autumn as part of the Government’s strategic approach to forestry in England.”

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “Potentially this is an opportunity. It would depend on which 50 per cent of land they sold off, if it is valuable in terms of nature, conservation and landscape, or of high commercial value in terms of logging.

“We will take a fairly pragmatic approach and look at each sale on a case by case basis, making sure the land goes to the appropriate organisations for the right sites, making sure the public can continue to enjoy the land.”

Mark Avery, conservation director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said: “You can understand why this Government would think ‘why does the state need to be in charge of growing trees’, because there are lots of people who make a living from growing trees.

“But the Forestry Commission does more than just grow trees. A lot of the work is about looking after nature and landscapes.”

“We would be quite relaxed about the idea of some sales, but would be unrelaxed if the wrong bits were up for sale like the New Forest, Forest of Dean or Sherwood Forest, which are incredibly valuable for wildlife and shouldn’t be sold off.

“We would look very carefully at what was planned. It would be possible to sell 50 per cent if it was done in the right way.”

A Defra spokesman said: “Details of the Government’s strategic approach to forestry will be set out later in the autumn.

“We will ensure our forests continue to play a full role in our efforts to combat climate change, protect the environment and enhance biodiversity, provide green space for access and recreation, alongside seeking opportunities to support modernisation and growth in the forestry sector.”

Allan MacKenzie, secretary of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions, said: “We will oppose any land sale. Once we’ve sold it, it never comes back.

“Once it is sold restrictions are placed on the land which means the public don’t get the same access to the land and facilities that are provided by the public forest estate.

“The current system means a vast amount of people can enjoy forests and feel ownership of them. It is an integral part of society.”

In 1992 John Major’s Conservative government – also looking to save money in a recession – drew up plans to privatise the Forestry Commission’s giant estate, which ranges from huge conifer plantations to small neighbourhood woodlands.

John Gummer, then the Agriculture Minister, wrote to cabinet colleagues saying that he ‘wanted to raise money and get the forest estate out of the private sector’. Mr Major backed the sell- off which, it was hoped, would raise £1 billion.

However it was later abandoned following a study by a group of senior civil servants, amid widespread public opposition.

Still eating Meat?

Read this: EU to back sale of meat and milk from cloned animal offspring

By SEAN POULTER The Daily Mail

The sale of meat and milk from the offspring of cloned farm animals is set to be backed by EU Commissioners despite mass consumer opposition.

A huge majority of the public is against clone animal farming, according to studies in Britain and across Europe.

Concerns surround the ethics of the process, the welfare of the animals and a lack of research on food safety. However, a leaked report to be discussed by the EU’s College of Commissioners today comes out in favour of food from the offspring of clones.

A new report suggests that the offspring of cloned animals could be consumed.

Alarmingly, it appears this food would not have to be labelled, leaving families completely in the dark about what they are putting in their mouths.

Specifically, the report proposes a temporary five-year ban on the sale of meat and milk from clones, but there would be no ban on food from their offspring.

If this policy is adopted, European farms could be populated by cloned supersize animals used as breeding stock for cows, pigs and sheep that are reared for food.

Clones themselves can suffer a range of painful conditions, including malformed organs and gigantism. Many die in the womb or soon after birth.

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But the Commission and the Government take the view that meat and milk from the offspring of a clone is effectively normal and therefore no ban or labelling is required.

The Daily Mail revealed in the summer that more than 100 cattle – pedigree Holstein milking cows – which are the offspring of clones are being raised on British farms.

We also revealed how meat from two clone-offspring bulls and one veal calf had been sold in butcher shops in Scotland, North-East England, London and Belgium.

The Food Standards Agency has made clear it believes it is illegal to sell meat and milk from these sources without first getting its approval.

Food and farming minister Caroline Spelman supports the move to force meat and milk from clone offspring into supermarkets.

The idea that the European Commission and the Government are putting the interest of high-tech clone farmers over the concerns of consumers and animal welfare has angered critics.

What’s in your shopping bag? The Daily Mail revealed how meat from two clone-offspring bulls and one veal calf had been sold in butcher shops in Scotland, North-East England, London and Belgium

The attitude has echoes of the BSE crisis and the way biotech firms tried to force GM food into the national diet.

A 2008 EU study found consumers across Europe are unhappy at this new era of ‘Frankenstein food’ farming.

Eighty-seven per cent of Britons said too little is known about the long-term health and safety effects of eating food from these animals.

A separate study for the FSA found that the more consumers learned about cloning, the greater were the objections. The vast majority said food derived from these animals should be labelled.

Even if the Commissioners and the Government back the sale of food from clone offspring, this is not final. MEPs and other, more sceptical, nations could try to block the policy.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1321550/EU-sale-meat-milk-cloned-animal-offspring.html#ixzz12sjopITg