By Rowan Sylva
For those who have not heard, Mars One, a project to establish a permanent human colony on the red planet is well under way. In ten years time the first colonists are scheduled to arrive from their eight-month one-way journey. They are to spend the rest of their lives on Mars – their dream. The Mars One official webpage sells it well. In 2013, 200, 000 people applied to become colonists. A lucky one hundred were selected for intensive and rigorous training.
Once on Mars the colonists are to live in 200 square meter pods. And are to begin growing their own food – specifically tomatoes and rice. They will apparently be able to shower in the “wet room.” They may leave the pods, putting on Mars suits, and are expected to conduct research. Further colonists are to land on the planet every two to four years, expanding the settlement. Presumably food will continue to be sent to the colonist as long as Mars One doesn’t run out money or the settlers become self sustaining permiculturalists.
This all sounds very well, How glorious for the human race. But Mars One moves into the bizarre and slightly grotesque, when one considers their business plan. The project requires an overall budget of around six billion US Dollars. Governments aren’t funding it; it is the ailing entertainment industry that is expected to cough up. Mars colonization is to be funded by making it the most expensive reality TV show ever made.
The contestants competing for the privilege of living on this red wasteland full of solar radiation and an unbreathable atmosphere are to be chosen by popular ballot by viewers. The final frontier becomes less the heroic expansion of mankind and more a perverse version of Americas Next Top Model. Living on Mars sounds bad enough to me, but living on Mars in some kind of weird Truman Show sounds much worse.
However, there are plenty of people that are keen. Or are there? Last week IFL Science reported that a Mars One finalist and Nasa researcher, Joseph Roche, left the project amid criticism that Mars One was a shambles. Allegedly contestants are not picked on their suitability but on the amount of money they contribute. Roche claimed he had not undergone any training other than filling out questionnaires. Instead he explained a point system where candidates are awarded points based on how much money they spend. Roche said it was untrue that there were 200, 000 applicants, claiming there were 2,671. Bas Landsthorpe, CEO of Mars One denies the allegations calling them, “lies.”
But why listen to the haters, when, as The Mars One website describes, we could be like, “the ancient Chinese, Micronesians, and untold Africans, the Vikings and famed explorers of Old World Europe.” But the ancient colonizers were after all going into the unknown, to discover fertile lands. In this case we know where they’re going – a cold lifeless planet. The website explains the arduousness of the eight month journey but claims the colonists will endure it, “because this will be the flight carrying them to their dream.” Yeah great, they can look forward to their fifty square meter pod and the odd fresh tomato, while people on earth watch them go steadily insane on youtube and their backers runout of money.
The Mars One website provides some examples of the kind of the discussions with the Mars colonists that the earth dwellers might find interesting – “What is it like to walk on Mars? How do you feel about your fellow astronauts after a year? What is it like living in the reduced Mars’ gravity? What is your favorite food? Do you enjoy the sunsets on Mars?”
I’ve taken the liberty of preemptively answering these questions.
What is it like to walk on Mars? Really boring. Its rock and dust.
How do you feel about your fellow astronauts after a year? I want to kill them.
What is it like living in the reduced Mars’ gravity? I live in a fucken pod. What do you think?
What is your favorite food? I haven’t had a shipment of food in five years. Is that supposed to be funny?
Do you enjoy the sunsets on Mars? I want to kill you too.
The very thought of living on Mars makes me realize how precious Earth is. And if we can raise six billion US dollars to colonize a freezing waterless wasteland shouldn’t we be able to raise at least a similar sum to save our own planet from destruction.