Remember that reality TV show that was going to send a group of random Earthlings on a one way ticket to Mars and film their adventures in colonisation, like some kind of gigantic super extended Big Brother? Turns out to be a complete scam.
If you missed it, around the middle of last year a Dutch non-profit company launched a world-wide search for people willing to throw away their lives on earth, drop everything and be a part of a human mission to colonise the red planet. Applications literally started pouring in. The Guardian put together this list of hopefuls.
Within weeks, reports were circulating online that over 200,000 people had applied. That the reality TV part of the show was estimated to bring in around 6 billion dollars. That we would be looking at human colonisation of Mars within ten years.
In reality? Mars One received 2,761 applications. The TV production company, Endemol, split ways with Mars One at the end of last year and their Nobel laureate, theoretical physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft, put a timeline on human colonisation of around 100 years from now.
One of the finalists for the show, Dr Joseph Roche, an assistant physics and astrophysics professor at Dublin’s Trinity University, has come out with a scathing insight into the shady workings of Mars One. In an interview with matter, he revealed that a vast majority of the finalists for the project had paid for their ticket into the top ten.
“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points (towards your application),” Roche explained to Matter. “Then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.” Alarm bells really started ringing for Roche in Febuary when he received a list of ‘tips and tricks’ for dealing with the media, which included this gem: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.”
The idea that a multi-billion dollar, deep space mission is so insecure in their funding, that they need a 75% share of every interview given by people, that arn’t even employed by them yet, is just a little alarming for your would be astronaut. On that, their selection criteria is so far removed from NASA’s requirements it’s ridiculous. To apply as a mission leader for a NASA space flight, you must have at least 1000 hours of jet-flight hours under your belt.
For Mars One, it’s the person who has purchased the most T-Shirts.
To this day, Roche has never met anyone from the company in person and there is still a lot of positive media buzz around the project. It’s Buzz that Roche worries could be damaging for the scientific community as a whole, once this whole thing falls on its face.
Moral of the story? Never trust Dutch reality TV and maybe leave space-flight to the professionals.
Words by Patrick Cullen. Photo by Wired.
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