In April 2013, application and selection for the ambitious Mars One project finally opened. On the 7th of May, Mars One announced that 78.000 people have applied for a one way ticket to Mars, to establish a human settlement on Mars. Can this privately funded project herald an age of space discovery?
The Mars One project, started by two Dutch entrepreneurs in 2011, aims to privately fund and organize a human settlement on Mars in 2023. The technological and financial aspects of this mission will all be privately organized and the selection program of the astronauts annex colonists are open to anyone, meaning this mission is open to anyone to invest in and apply to. Physicists, entrepreneurs and aerospace corporations supported this idea and before long Mars One received attention from all over the world. One of the major aspects highlighted by the stories surrounding Mars One was the fact that in order to acquire long-term funding, the astronauts’ journey, from the selection process until the settling on Mars, is going to be broadcasted in a reality show format as a global media event. This gave the project the name of ‘Big Brother in Space’. This worldwide broadcast is scheduled to begin after the selection period, when the first four aspiring astronauts start their training. A one-on-one copy of the settlement on Mars will be built in an environment challenging enough to simulate the real deal. This will help the astronauts to acclimatize to the environment, and the equipment can be tested.
The idea is to broadcast Mars One as a reality show
The project, however, is more than a televised spectacle looking for attention and money. According to the founders of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, it is about the possibilities of mankind as a unity. Space travel should not be the individual aspiration of a nation, but rather the collective effort of humanity as a whole. The fact that the journey is a one-way ticket adds to this romantic idea of exploring new territory. The astronauts who go through eight years of extensive training to venture beyond known lands are in a way similar to the explorers in the 15th century, setting off on a ship, aware of the fact that they might never return. This adventurous notion of exploration might be a reason why close to a hundred-thousand people applied for this project in the first two weeks of the nineteen week application period.
If the funding is sustained and the technology and astronaut training is sufficient, Mars One can become a milestone of what humankind is capable of. The combined effort of entrepreneurs, physicists, investors and anyone else willing and able to work out might show us how far humanity can come with sheer willpower and knowledge. Only time can tell whether this ambitious program can fulfill its high expectations.