Mars One is a private effort to build a human colony on Mars — let it not be said they lack ambition. 😉 Their plans include building a colony out of Dragon capsules, and getting some funding from a reality TV show. It all sounds a little far-fetched, given the staggering price tag even orbital manned spaceflight carries, but they’ve moved a step closer to reality by signing a new deal with Lockheed Martin Space Systems to build an unmanned Mars mission to launch in 2018. The plan would include an orbiter to scout out landing sites and a Phoenix-derived lander. If successful, it will put them into an extremely select group which presently only includes large, highly funded government organizations. The orbiter will carry imaging equipment and also act as a data relay for the lander; the lander will carry a novel solar array to be tested at Mars and a variety of experiments designed to demonstrate technologies required for the manned mission.
Will they achieve all of their goals? I don’t know, but this is a surprisingly solid step forward. I tend to be cautiously optimistic about commercial efforts, since like all new businesses, most will inevitably fail. But we may actually be moving closer to the time when one actually manages to put people on another world.