In the years to come, it won’t just be men who come from Mars – women will too. Or, more specifically, women and men will go to Mars. And never come back. Well, this is the plan, according to Mars One, an organisation intending to establish the first human settlements on the red planet.
It’s like something out of a science fiction novel. But is it really possible? Have we really reached the age where we’ll be moving to Mars? Here’s what we know:
The Mars One mission
Mars One is a privately funded non-profit organisation that is coordinating the first human colonisation of Mars. They don’t make any spacecraft or train astronauts – rather, they outsource these crucial elements to the space travel specialists and focus mainly on managing the process and raising the $6bn they estimate they’ll need for the project.
From the initial 200,000 applicants, Mars One is selecting a final 24 to be the first few to move to Mars – the first four of whom are scheduled to depart in 2027. Before this, though, a number of unmanned missions are scheduled to set up the necessary living and communication stations ahead of time; all of which starts as early as 2020.
Mars One anti-mission
International news went loony earlier this year when the astronaut selection process filtered down to the top 100 candidates. But instead of the usual hype, Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist, former NASA researcher and top 100 Mars One finalist, expressed concern, stating that the Mars One selection process was “hopelessly and dangerously flawed.”
This statement was based on a number of claims, some of which are:
• That there weren’t as many as 200,000 applicants. According to him, the number was closer to 2,700 and finalist selection was swayed by a candidate’s financial contribution to the project.
• That “the selection process was not rigorous enough to reach the requisite standard of more traditional astronaut selection programmes” as he had made it to the top 100 without meeting a single Mars One representative.
• That the $6bn in funding Mars One needs for the mission is:
- Too low. Significantly lower than any previous manned NASA missions. Which brings the safety of the mission into question.
- Unlikely to come to fruition considering their limited fund-raising strategies.
The big Mars debate
In a subsequent video interview with Mars One CEO, Bas Lansdorp, a number of these claims have been denied. He assures the public that there were more than 200,000 applicants, that financial contribution to the project carries no weight in astronaut selection, and that the budget has been carefully calculated with space travel experts.
It seems that, somewhere along the line, things have gone awry. And the legitimacy of the mission has turned into a battle over whose word means most. The real questions are:
• Are these ‘teething issues’ not to be expected from such an ambitious project, managed by people who are not space experts? And, • Does the fact that they’re not experts in the field guarantee the project’s failure?
The jury is out on this one.
At the end of the day, a lot is weighing on the success of the Mars One mission. It’s a project that, if successful, will be remembered forever. And that’s what these potential astronauts are putting their lives on the line for – a legacy.