A mission to Mars for any purpose is a very complicated problem. Our mission to find life on Mars demands that we address certain issues before we even begin putting our Mission together. The very first question we asked ourselves was:
What is life?
More specifically, how do we define life? What kind of life are we looking for? Past life or present life? These questions have to be answered to guide the development of the entire mission as a whole. As our primary goal is to find life, we need a working definition, by which to organize our search, and to help us get started in asking the right questions, and making the right answers.
With our definition of life, we had to ask a fundamental question about the mission. Is Mission 2004 manned or unmanned? This decision was made early on, as it has huge implications on the complexity and feasibility of the mission as a whole. After deliberating we came to the decision that Mission 2004 should be a manned mission. Only a manned mission would be capable of effectively, and intuitively, searching the Martian landscape for signs of life. Only a group of humans, would have the intuition necessary to apply our definition of life to its fullest.
Our decision to make Mission 2004 a manned mission, has some serious implications. A critical question to answer, is that of feasibility in the public's eye. How will the public react to a manned mission to Mars? How we present the mission to them is an important question of public relations. Indeed, the first question on tax-payer's minds will be the cost of the mission. A mission budget, and adequate sources of funding, would be critical early on in our plans as they impose limitations and gives the mission a sense of realism.
Beyond budget constraints, there are several other limiting factors, the most important being time. Therefore we have developed a time-line for Mission 2004 that includes a broad overview of the mission from research, to manufacturing, to launch windows, and travel time. Only with a comprehensive plan, can we hope to get to Mars.