Mars One to Muslims: End the fatwa and come fly with us

A space exploration company planning to send four people on a one-way trip to Mars is fighting back against Islamic authorities -- who issued a fatwah saying the trip was akin to suicide.

The legal pronouncement came from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the United Arab Emirates, which banned Muslims from participating in the mission. The legal body took issue with Mars One’s plan, and called it tantamount to suicide.

“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said, according to a report in Khaleej Times. The religious body's fatwah cited a passage from the Quran, which advises Muslims “Do not kill yourselves or one another.”

“There is a possibility that an individual who travels to [the] planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death,” the committee reportedly said.


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Bas Lansdorp, the co-founder and CEO of Mars One, respectfully disagreed with that. In a statement provided to, he cited the long history of exploration and scientific learning in the Muslim world.

"The Muslim world has for centuries had a rich tradition of exploration," he wrote. “The mission to Mars is a road that has never been walked before, even though the first settlers will be walking in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, Neil Armstrong, or any of the other great explorers in history.”

Besides, he said, the mission will be made as safe as possible.

“We would like to respectfully inform the GAIAE about elements of the Mars One mission that reduce the risk to human life as much as possible. It may seem extremely dangerous to send humans to Mars today, but the humans will be preceded by at least eight cargo missions.”

Those cargo missions are meant to set up a habitable settlement, including a means to produce water and a breathable atmosphere. Lansdorp said. Plus the capsules build on technology America used in the 60s and 70s to send men to the moon.

Yet some scientists and experts have taken issue with the entire concept of the Mars One mission. Last year, Dani Eder, who was in the space systems division of Boeing from 1981 to 2005 and worked on manned Mars mission studies, said the mission was more fiction than science.

“All they have are some words and pictures," Eder told at the time. "Mars One needs to explain how they get to Mars, and not just show pictures of the surface habitat, before engineers like me will take them seriously.”

Interest in the program remains high regardless; more than 200,000 people applied to make the one-way trip to Mars. Mars One recently whittled the list down to just over 1,000 potential colonists. Lansdorp told he hopes Muslims can join as well.

“Mars One respectfully requests GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa and make the greatest Rihla, or journey, of all times open for Muslims too. They can be the first Muslims to witness the signs of God’s creation in heaven, drawing upon the rich culture of travel and exploration of early Islam.”

“As Ibn Battuta also wrote: ‘Travelling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.’”