Humankind's quest to visit Mars suffered a setback this week, when Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against setting up home on the red planet.
A group called the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment, based in the United Arab Emirates, has ruled that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal - and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.
The ruling came in response to an announcement by the Dutch-based Mars One project, which proposes to send people on one-way trips to colonize the planet, according to the Khaleej Times, an English-language newspaper published in the UAE.
"Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: 'Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful,’ "the authority said.
"Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death."
The GAIAE has issued around two million fatwas through its Official Fatwa Centre since its inception in 2008.
The multi-billion euro Mars One mission hopes to establish a human colony on Mars by 2025. "The Mars One mission plan consists of cargo missions and unmanned preparation of a habitable settlement, followed by human landings," its website says.
"In the coming years, a demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions will be sent to Mars. These missions will set up the outpost where the human crew will live and work."
Over 200,000 people, including 500 Saudis and Arabs, have applied to take part in the missions so far. In December Mars One short-listed 1,058 people to take part in trials for the ambitious project.
Mars lies on average 141.6million miles from the Sun and has an average temperature of -65C (-85F). Its atmosphere is desperately thin - one per cent of Earth's pressure - and is 95 per cent carbon dioxide.
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