Mars One: reaching for the stars

The mission to Mars which is set to see four space-exploring hopefuls become reality TV stars is due for launch in 2023, and some of the hopefuls have been answering questions on what they think the experience will be like.

Mars One is a £4bn project, founded in 2010 by engineer Bas Lansdorp, which hopes to see the project recoup costs by selling the broadcasting rights to the mission.

"The biggest media event in the world," said Paul Römer, the co-creator of Big Brother and ambassador of the project, on the Mars One website. "Reality meets talent show with no ending and the whole world watching. Now there’s a good pitch."

But how viable is the mission? Funding issues and technological hurdles have come under scrutiny, with the moral integrity of the one-way trip also seeing criticism.

By 2015, 40 candidates will start their eight-year training programme where they will learn, amongst other essential skills, to deal with long periods of isolation.

Erica Meszaros, a candidate from the United States, when asked why she applied for the mission, said:"I want to see the sun rise over a completely new horizon, in a completely new sky. I think that’s worth any price. To me, the desire to explore a new world, a planet completely different from the one that every person who has ever lived has ever known, is intrinsic and essential to the human spirit."

But one comment from Erica which hit hard is: "It would be tough to have to say goodbye to my husband forever, tough in a way that hasn’t really set in for me yet."

Woah! What is sadder here? The fact that people are willing to abandon their families and children for a trip to Mars or the fact that what should be a great leap for humankind has been turned into some kind of Big Brother reality show, which to me undermines all credibility this mission might have had.

But then again, explorers have always had to say goodbye to loved ones, and the reality TV side of things might just be reflecting the curiosity of the public left behind. I mean, given that we now have the technology (in theory) for a live interplanetary feed, we were never going to settle for the occasional blog entry, were we? Hmm.

Another point is that…why normal people? Why not scientists? Some people have focused their entire lives into studying space, and astronauts have prepared for years to get off Earth. If they broadcasting the lives of actual scientists, then I can see a point, but if you’re going to be relaying the mundane happenings of a bunch of celebrity wannabees all for the name of entertainment, that’s a whole different matter.

The caliber of these hopefuls is just too low for astronauts. What if something needs fixing? What if someone gets hurt? They all seem to have this willingless to die for a great ‘scientific cause’ but that’s not what we need. We don’t need someone who’ll just accept fate and say "well, at least I was on TV," we need people who will fight to survive and keep the mission going. What if the astronauts in Apollo 13 just gave up? You need realists in that spaceship, not idealists. This proposed rocket they want to build is just vapourware!

But I guess we have to take what we’re given on space exploration these days.

Which brings me onto another point, the cost. If NASA, or any of the now numerous private space startups aren’t doing this, with their much bigger budgets, then how is Mars One going to be a success? £4bn probably won’t even be enough to get them past the Moon. The mission will need a launch site, ground crew, extensive training, a brand new rocket…none of this can be achieved on £4bn. NASA have a budget of around £16bn a year, meaning that if they saved their pennies a bit they’d be on the way to Mars in no time. Yet they’re looking at the 2030s earliest to get to Mars. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has spent around $400m developing SpaceShip 2 for suborbital flights, but its projected cost was $108m.

It’s just not feasible.

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