Sorry to crush your dreams of watching a Neil Armstrong “one small step” moment on another planet, but news broke this week that the much-hyped Mars One mission to our galactic neighbor is in shambles… for a number of reasons.
The main problem appears to be money, but there are a few other pesky details that never really got worked out—like inventing new technology capable of making the journey, more new technology capable of sustaining life on another planet, and finding a capable crew worthy of such a milestone in human civilization.
Mars One, a non-profit organization, had been recruiting crew members to make the one-way trip to the red planet with promises of glory and fame. In reality, what’s happened since the grand plan was announced has been a complete breakdown due to “no money, no process [and a] hopelessly flawed scheme.”
One of the 100 finalists—a former NASA researcher with PhDs in both physics and astrophysics—has burst the bubble. The first red flag for Dr. Joseph Roche was the discovery that Mars One over exaggerated the amount of interest in joining the crew. By a lot. According to Roche, only 2,761 people actually submitted applications. Mars One reported over 200,000 applicants. The biggest concern, however, was the realization that some of the applicants paid to get a top spot on the list.
And the shameless cash grab doesn’t stop there. According to Roche, Mars One asks finalists to donate money, encouraging them to seek out paid publicity and pass on the earnings to the organization. It gets worse. The Guardian recently produced a short documentary about the mission, featuring a few of the top finalists. It turns out, those that made the cut were the ones who had raised the most cash.
For an endeavour that will require huge amounts of capital to fully fund, all this begging for money sounded too suspicious for Roche to keep quiet. He also couldn’t get over the fact that he’s never actually met anyone in person from Mars One and has never been subjected to the kind of rigorous physical and psychological testing required for such a mission.
Roche fears the end result will be a dramatic and sudden loss of public trust for NASA and any future plans to explore deep space. By speaking out, he hopes to distance himself—and the good name of science—from the downfall of Mars One.