Is Mars One a scam? It does sound too good to be true. Mars One is the mission to establish a permanent human colony on Mars and, according to Mars-one.com, starting in 2024, crews of four will depart every two years establish permanent settlements on the red planet. Anyone who applies for the program must be willing to live on Mars. It sounds exciting, but scientists warn that it’s all a big financial scam.
Dr. Joseph Roche, a physicist from Trinity College in Dublin, applied to the Mars One program and became a finalist. He didn’t take it very seriously, but he thought it would be interesting to go through the experience and bring attention to space science. One of the biggest issues, Roche says, is that the media was so willing to accept any “facts” that the Mars One mission team threw out there. It started with the claim that they received over 200,000 applications when, in reality, Roche says, they only received 2,761.
Some participants even “bought” their way into the mission. They also had to agree that any money earned from appearances or interviews about the project should be donated back to Mars One. These issues have Roche rather concerned.
“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to Medium.com. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”
Essentially, the highest profile candidates are really just the ones who have made enough money. Roche says that the interview and testing process is also flawed. Instead of the rigorous testing one would expect (picture ‘The Right Stuff’ kind of testing), he was interviewed for 10 minutes via Skype. Roche has also had to complete a questionnaire, upload a video to the website and get a medical exam. There has been no physical or psychological testing in order to determine whether he is fit enough to travel to the red planet.
At NASA, an astronaut must be able to theoretically pilot a craft to Mars and have logged thousands of hours in a jet airplane. Although candidates are not allowed to record interviews or take notes, Roche says, he still has not met anyone from Mars One in person.
“That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.” Other reports indicate that Mars One’s deal with TV production company Endemol that could bring them up to $6 billion in revenue has fallen through and adviser Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard t’ Hooft has put the Mars One plan at 100 years, not ten.
Roche says his greatest fear is that people will keep supporting the Mars One plan and neglect real plans by NASA and other legitimate science agencies. Who knew becoming an astronaut was as easy as collecting cereal box tops for prizes?