This question is more about morals and philosophy and is a rather dark one. Anyway, has it been considered and/or is it a viable idea to send an astronaut to another planet to die, or is it unspeakable for a government agency to do such a thing? What about private agencies?

I am sure there are people today that will gladly give their life to set foot on Mars, do science and record their names in the history, and the mission will be so much easier:

No return craft and fuel, much less food and water, no big habitats needed, space radiation not such an issue, and so on.

Unfortunately, we as a society seem to have a thing about letting people die at will.

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    $\begingroup$ "Can we send cosmonauts on no-return missions?" Of course the Russians can. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I wondered if someone will notice my phrasing. But I'm neither a Russian nor US citizen, so I kind of use the words interchangeably. Edited it though $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ What's the standard usage in the country you're from? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ both. Mostly Cosmonaut is used though, as here in Bulgaria people are used to from the Soviet era, we had close ties to USSR. But both are used interchangeably, depending on the info source, and I would say that most common people are not even aware that Russians are called Cosmonauts and american $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ Oh dear god, yes. I have thought about that many times for several specific people. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 3:31

3 Answers 3


It's obviously been considered, and always rejected; I don't know of any governments that consider it viable.

The gap between what can be done by crewed missions and robotic missions is narrowing all the time. It's pointlessly wasteful of human life to send people on a suicide mission when a robot can do almost as good a job.

One-way colonization trips to Mars may happen some day, of course, but they will at least initially incur a bigger mass hit in habitat and supplies than a return ship would.

  • $\begingroup$ [colonization trips] will at least initially incur a bigger mass hit in habitat and supplies than a return ship would — are you sure? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 10:39

It's on record that astronauts, particularly the Apollo astronauts, were aware their trips could become one-way but they were never designed that way. Outside of permanent, planned colonisation theoretical studies there have never been any planned-and-executed one-way trips. You would need an utterly compelling, Armageddon-style mission requirement to even seriously consider it.


During Lunar Race in 60s one-way expedition to the Moon was considered by some people, but not by NASA officials.



A single astronaut should be launched to the Moon and stay there for a long time (at least two years) until return spaceship would be ready.

With his temporary home set up, he would wait a little over two years for another mission to come and collect him. Cord and Seale estimated that this mission could be launched as early as 1965, a year of expected minimal solar activity. Larger launch vehicles capable of sending the three-man Apollo spacecraft would be ready by 1967. The one-way spaceman would have a long but finite stay on the Moon.

The astronaut would be supplied:

Cord and Seale estimated that 13 cargo landers per year would be required to deliver life support supplies. Three more cargo landers would deliver parts for a multi-purpose rover and construction equipment, and one would deliver the nuclear reactor and radio equipment, including a large dish-shaped high-gain antenna. Three more would deliver "utility" payloads; these would include scientific gear. Establishing the shelter would need two cargo landers. In all, the One-Way Space Man would need 22 cargo landers during his first year on the moon.

Obviously, this proposal did not fit one of the main political purposes of lunar expeditions - to gain good publicity. Public reaction around the world for such expedition would surely be negative.

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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion it's the main problem of future one-way trip plans, for example to Mars. There is high probability that one-way expedition would turn to "moral disaster" in public's eyes, even if all particpants do it at full consent and reach valueable results in their mission. Most probable scenario is high excitation in the begining of the mission, and then they are dying one for one for several years, mosly from radiation heath issues. $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 8:29

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