As the world marvels at the latest US Mars landing, a Dutch start-up is aiming to beat NASA at its own game by sending the first humans to the red planet — and film it all as a reality show.
The big hitch: it’s a one-way trip.
Fact, fiction or publicity stunt from the land that launched reality TV?
The start-up, called “Mars One”, says it is dead serious about landing four astronauts on Mars by 2023, seven years ahead of the US space agency’s target, and plans to start the search for volunteers next year.
Experts are sceptical, but “Mars One” has won backing from none other than Dutch Nobel laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft, who won the 1999 prize for physics.
Mars One will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn, and grow. Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive new astronauts every two years. To accomplish this, Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies. It is both economically and logistically feasible, in motion through the aggregation of existing suppliers and experts in space exploration.
We invite you to participate in this journey, by sharing our vision with your friends, by supporting our effort, and perhaps, by becoming the next Mars astronaut yourself.
“My first reaction was: ‘this will never work’. But a closer look at the project convinced me. I really think this is possible,” ‘t Hooft told AFP.
No one has yet tried to put humans on Mars and scientists question whether radiation exposure would even allow people to survive the trip.
As for space agencies’ attempts since 1960 to land unmanned craft, only about half have succeeded, with the US in the clear lead.
And although there have been a number of successful missions — including NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on August 5 to hunt for signs of past life and prepare for a possible human mission — scientists have no way, yet, to get spacecraft back.
Sound discouraging? Not to the man behind “Mars One”, mechanical engineer Bas Lansdorp, 35.
He estimates its pricetag at a hefty $6 billion, more than twice the $2.5 billion for Curiosity, and said the idea for financing came after talks with Paul Romer, one of the Dutch creators of “Big Brother”, the first reality show in 1999 that was a smash hit and spawned versions, and big profits, worldwide.
“Funding will be made possible through the media spectacle built around the adventure,” he told AFP.
For Lansdorp, “the conquest of the red planet is the most important step in the history of mankind,” even if he concedes that many aspects of “Mars One” are still uncertain.
Among these are the ethics and legality of asking people to finish their lives in outer space, under TV scrutiny.
Other critics say “Mars One” seems more focused on the funding side — rather than the feasibility — of the project.
Under Lansdorp’s plan, choosing and training the astronauts, their months-long space journey and their lives on Mars would all be televised — along the lines of “Big Brother” where a small group is isolated in a house and constantly filmed by TV cameras.
To learn more of Mars One, visit their official site.