Back in 2012, the news hit that a proposed one-way trip to Mars was in the works by the non-profit organization, Mars One. Based out of the Netherlands and headed up by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the mission was to take 4 crew members to the Martian surface and set up a permanent frontier. This was the crux of the news story: Many wondered who would volunteer for such a mission–to never see and step foot on Earth again. But thousands applied, and as the years whittled down the applicants it seemed that the mission was getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. But then that all fell apart when it was revealed to be a bit of a scam.
Later last month–March 2015–a Mars colonist candidate came out against the project, calling the selection process “dangerously flawed.” Joseph Roche, a form NASA researcher, filled out an application to be considered for one of the 4 crew members heading off to Mars for a 2027 colonization. He said he filled this application out mainly out of curiosity to see where it would go. He ended up becoming one of 100 finalists, but in a recent interview he expressed his concerns about the project saying that there was inaccurate media coverage and that for the reported 200,000 applicants only 2,761 were real. He also brought to light that there was a lack of psychological or psychometric testing of applicants to glean if these people would be able to endure the Martian hardships. He went on to state that the leading contenders earned their spots by paying for it.
Roche points out that you join the Mars One Community automatically as soon as you apply as a candidate. After that, you start gaining points in the selection process; however, this point system is arbitrary and has nothing to do with ranking. As things progress you can earn more points by purchasing merchandise from Mars One or just by donating money to them. Furthermore, if any media outlets pay a candidate for an interview, the organization would reap 75 percent of the profit.
Despite completing a questionnaire, uploading a video, taking a medical exam, and participating in an online Skype quiz, Roche has yet to meet anyone from the Mars One team in person.
More bad news came out when theoretical physicist, Gerard Hooft, said a realistic launch date wouldn’t be ten years from now but more like 100 years from now.
Chris Welch, director of Masters Programs at the International Space University, said that, “[even] ignoring the potential mismatch between the project income and its costs and questions about its longer-term viability, the Mars One proposal does not demonstrate a sufficiently deep understanding of the problems to give real confidence that the project would be able to meet its very ambitious schedule.”
The plausibility of the mission has been called into question by many notable experts in the field. Former German astronaut, Ulrich Walter, gave the mission probability of reaching Mars a thirty percent chance and surviving for more than three months at twenty percent. Wired magazine gave it a plausibility of 2 out of 10. Advocates for a manned space mission to Mars like Robert Zubin even said that the funding logistics make little sense, “I don’t think the business plan closes it. We’re going to go to Mars, we need a billion dollars, and we’re going to make up the revenue with advertising and media rights and so on. You might be able to make up some of the money that way, but I don’t think that anyone who is interested in making money is going to invest on that basis–invest in this really risky proposition, and if you’re lucky you’ll break even? That doesn’t fly.”
Last year, an MIT study into the Mars One mission suggested that the astronauts would die within days of arriving on Mars. Roche said that the organizers were hands-off when it came to safety and that the selection process didn’t meet the traditional requisite standards of current astronaut selection programs. “I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with several astronauts and if you spend any time with an astronaut you will soon see that they are as close to being superhuman as a person can be. To select such a person requires a comprehensive and exhaustive procedure. Instead, Mars One ‘chose’ candidates purely for their capacity to garner publicity–and earn money.”