A 2008 photo shows Mars from the viewpoint of NASA's Phoenix lander.… (NASA )
Mars One is not only a plan to send four astronauts (one of them could be you!) on a one-way trip to Mars -- but it's also a plan for a money-making, ratings-through-the-roof reality show.
No, I'm not kidding.
One of the men behind the effort to put a colony on Mars by 2023 spoke to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday about his dreams of going to Mars, how the Mars One team is looking for sponsors and investors for the project and how a "media spectacle" will help foot the bill.
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And with all that a colony to Mars involves -- the transportation, the living quarters, the water, the food, the breathable air -- Bas Lansdorp says, "the biggest risk is in the financing ... convincing [investors] that this really is possible."
Lansdorp, speaking from the Netherlands, where the project is based, described himself as a chemical and mechanical engineer but said he had been working on Mars One full time for the last year.
He's the founder of Ampyx Power, a wind energy company that describes itself as a "pioneering technology startup" developing a plane-like device to extract energy from the wind.
So Lansdorp is used to thinking cutting-edge. His dreams of Mars began about 15 years ago, he said, when he realized he would "really like to go to Mars" and that "if you skip the return trip, that would make it a lot easier."
He and partner Arno Wielders, whose background is in physics and who works part time at the European Space Agency, roughed out their Mars One blueprint beginning about a year ago. They found suppliers who could build the components they required for the trip -- the rocket, the living unit, the life-support systems, etc.
There are details to be worked out -- "a lot of engineering to be done" -- but Lansdorp insisted that "from a technical point of view, our plan is really solid."
What about water?
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is currently on its way to the Red Planet -- with an expected landing date in August -- for the purpose of looking for habitats that could have supported life at one point or evidence that water once flowed on the surface of the planet.
Lansdorp is confident that sufficient water can be taken from the Mars soil. They will incorporate any information that the NASA lab uncovers, he said. "But it's not as if our mission depends on NASA's mission," he said.
So Lansdorp is ready to move forward -- there are just 11 years between now and a living, working Mars colony -- but the biggest obstacle now is money. That's why he consulted "Big Brother" co-creator Paul Romer about financing the project with what his team was calling a media spectacle.
It boils down to a reality show in which the astronauts for the mission will be chosen. And they don't have to be astronauts to begin with.
"If there's a job vacancy at NASA, anyone can apply," Lansdorp said. "In principle, anyone would be allowed to go."
The Mars One website explains it this way (while frowning on the term "reality TV"):
"We expect millions of applications for the jobs of the astronauts, but only four people get to go. ... And all the people on Earth who would never leave their life on Earth, but are intrigued by the prospect of humans settling on Mars, will also be able to watch. Before humans depart to Mars, there will be updates on progress, astronaut selection, astronaut training and videos from the unmanned Mars missions."
This isn't any old astronaut job, either. It's a one-way, till-death-do-us-part trip to Mars.
"You can't bail out when you've had enough," Lansdorp said. They will be seeking mentally stable, smart, very healthy people, he said.
As far as reality TV or media spectacles go, it sounds rather fascinating. Lansdorp said Romer predicted a big hit.
"Everybody in the whole world will watch."
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