So yesterday when I was driving home with my wife from the grocery store, I heard on the radio that a man in Highlands Ranch, CO (1 hour drive from where I live) had made it into the 4th round of candidates now called The Mars 100.
Out of these 100 people, 4 will be selected to become crew members who will be aboard a shuttle dubbed Mars One. These 4 people (ordinary people like you and me, with families and day jobs, some unaffiliated with Science or Technology, and some not even trained in the Sciences in the least) will be on a ONE WAY TICKET to Mars!
That’s right, ONE WAY. They’re not coming back. Their mission (should this even happen, as there are obviously many hurdles to overcome) is to set up the first Martian Colony.
I’m not making this up. And what’s even more insane is that the founder of Mars One–Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp–plans on funding most of the later phases of the project by turning the build-up to the launch, the space flight, and the settlement of Mars, into a Reality-TV show!!!!
Now, for a while I’ve heard some fringe reporting on this project but last night was the first time I looked into it in-depth. And my mind would not stop imagining this scenario were it to come true.
Think about it: 4 people–everyday normal people like you and me–selected from hundreds of thousands of applicants from around the world, will win a ONE WAY TICKET to the Red Planet to set up the first off-planet colony, and it will be a reality-television show broadcast worldwide!
There is no better symbol, my friends, of the interesting times we live in…
Here’s one of the Mars 100 in her own words,the piece is titled “Why I’m Volunteering to Die on Mars”, on what it’s like to face the possible reality of leaving Planet Earth and never coming back: http://time.com/3716823/mars-one-space-travel-finalist/
It all sounds like something ripped out of a standard Sci-Fi novel and I can’t believe there’s not a movie about this yet. Of course, the actual launch isn’t set until 2024 and there are a billion ways this could not happen, so I’m guessing everyone is waiting to see if it’s even worth the time to produce content around it yet.
But still. This is a REAL attempt. 4 ordinary people who win the lotto, only the prize is to become reality-TV stars on a one-way ticket to colonize Mars. I still can’t believe this is not fiction.
There are many critics of the project and rightly so. First, the budget. Mars One has estimated that it will cost $4 billion USD to do this. NASA gives the estimate at $100 billion USD. But before you dismiss this whole Mars One thing completely just from this disparity in funding, let me say this:
India, yes INDIA, has a space program, and they have already successfully sent a satellite (called the Mangalyaan) to Mars and it has successfully inserted itself into Mars’ orbit. The total cost of this project has been estimated to be around $71 million. That’s not a type-o: m is for millions, not billions.
NASA’s identical mission, the Mars Odyssey, cost nearly $300 million dollars.
Okay, given that the NASA mission happened 12 years before the Indian one, it is possible that technology and materials for the Indian space mission may have been more advanced and perhaps cheaper. But India nonetheless has accomplished their mission under $100 million dollars.
So what could Mars One mean for us Earthlings, for humanity in general, and for the future of space exploration?
Well, it could mean everything. We’re talking about the possibility that for the very first time in history, humans will be leaving Earth to try and settle elsewhere. And you could watch it unfold right before your eyes on TV.
I can’t help but chuckle and shake my head.
I truly hope this happens. And I hope we don’t wind up watching these 4 courageous (if not fool-hardy) people go insane once the full realization hits them that they are going into outer space and they are not coming back. Or the million things that could go wrong. That would make for some really disturbing television, not to mention probably kill any type of future Mars colonization schemes for generations.
We’ll see what happens when 2025 is here.
Until then, just keep on checking out the amazing images and information that the Mars Curiosity Rover is sending back to us.
And read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and let your imagination run wild.
It’s fun. After all, this is what exploring space is all about.
And every once and a while, just look up at that little red dot surrounded by that infinite, seemingly impenetrable blackness, sprinkled throughout with billions of other points of light, and just think that perhaps one day in our lifetimes there might be other people living there on that little red dot, looking back at you.