Marooned on Mars! It sounds like a 1950s pulp sci-fi title, but in reality over 200,000 people volunteered to do exactly that, and 1,058 have now gone through to the next phase of selection.
The Irish Independent has an interview with another Irish candidate. French-born Steve Menaa who lives in Cork admits he has yet to tell his son about his plans!
Mars One is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp and it’s a long shot in more ways than one. They’ve estimated that it will cost US$6 billion to land the first four people in 2025, and $4bn for each additional crew of of four who will join them every two years. It’s a private, non-governmental enterprise which plans to generate income from crowdfunding, sponsorship, the sale of broadcast rights and revenue from intellectual property. The website compares its fundraising potential to that of the Olympic Games.
In these days of easy travel it may seem odd to commit to a lifetime of emigration with no prospect of return, but Mars One points out that that is a uniquely modern point of view:
… it bears mentioning that thousands of Europeans agreed to do just that – they took all they owned and moved to Australia, for example. That agreement did not come with a return ticket. The boat went back, but that did not mean they could afford to go with it. Maybe they could buy another ticket after saving up for a few years – just like our astronauts could build a rocket after some time.
Turning one’s back on the earth forever may seem like an impossible sacrifice to some, but for many it would be a dream come true – a worthwhile price to pay for the adventure of a lifetime.
But for others, the element of private enterprise will raise some red flags. Will the pressure to give a return on investment be prioritised over the welfare of the pioneers? And what happens if the TV audience at home loses interest in the ‘Olympic’ spectacle. Will there be pressure to make the show sexy? Could it turn into Big Brother or I’m an Astronaut – Get Me Out of Here – a bizarre pantomime from which its cast have no hope of escape?
Mars One is an admirable enterprise in many ways. But there are a lot more questions to be answered about the price of a human colony – and who should pay for it.