January 10, 2013

Trip to Mars: A space-age reality show

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - In 1990's "Total Recall," Arnold Schwarzenegger had a simple directive to himself: "Get your ass to Mars." Now a nonprofit Dutch company is promising to help real-world tourists do just that.

MARS
click image to enlarge

A NASA televised Mars sunset. Earth pioneers could get to see one in person by 2023 if all goes as planned.

The Associated Press

Mars One has announced plans to establish a colony on Mars by 2023 and it's about to begin looking for prospective Martian pioneers.

While the requirements for NASA's astronaut program are demanding, assuring only the finest and fittest of humans will ever make it into space, Mars One is casting a wide net. Its requirements are resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust, creativity and resourcefulness.

What about the ability to fly a spaceship or solve unforeseen, unimaginable problems being one of the first humans on an alien planet? Those, evidently, are skills that one picks up with time.

Mars One only asks that applicants be at least 18 years of age (they will be 28 by the time they land on Mars), speak English and don't have any pressing business on Earth - ever. This is a one-way kind of deal.

After submitting themselves to the selection process, the chosen astronauts will then be entered into a full-time training program that will prepare them for their 2022 blast-off date. In the meantime, Mars One plans to send preparatory probes and rovers with supplies to the planet as early as 2016. The first group of four colonists will follow a few years later, with a new team of colonists arriving every two years after that.

How does this group expect to fund this effort, which would surely cost in the multiple billions of dollars? Reality TV, of course! Mars One plans to televise every aspect of the mission and involve the whole world in the run up to the launch. As Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft says in Mars One's introductory video, "This is going to be a media spectacle. 'Big Brother' will pale in comparison."

So in other words, while NASA astronauts will be walking in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong, potential Mars One astronauts will be walking in the footsteps of Donald Trump.

The Mars One project is the brainchild of co-founders Bas Lansdorp, an entrepreneur who previously founded the wind energy company Ampyx Power; and Arno Wielders, who also works as a payload study manager for the European Space Agency. These two aren't alone, of course.

 

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