Mars Mission Reality Show: Pipe Dream Or Scam?

 @rpalmerscience
on June 05 2012 5:18 PM

Dutch company Mars One says it wants to send people to the Red Planet after running them through the reality TV wringer - but appears to be ill-prepared for actual spaceflight.

Mars One says it wants to start selecting astronauts in 2013 and training them on a replica of the settlement out in the desert. The company says it will launch supplies in 2016, followed by the first four astronauts in 2022. The volunteer extraterrestrial settlers would all be traveling on a one-way ticket.

Several questions spring up almost immediately: how wise is it to select astronauts 10 years before a mission starts through reality show casting? Is any of this technologically feasible at this point in time? Is Mars One a hoax, a media stunt capitalizing on the fact that private spaceflights are in the headlines now thanks to SpaceX, or an overreaching pipe dream?

The company lists only one engineer amongst its four-person team on its website, and trumpets the endorsements of Big Brother co-creator Paul Romer as well as Nobel Prize winner and physicist Gerard 't Hooft - though 't Hooft's expertise lies in quantum mechanics, not astronomy.

A man claiming to be Mars One founder Bas Landsdorp appeared Friday on the popular website Reddit to take questions on the project, and was quickly met with a storm of skepticism.

Reddit users knocked Landsdorp, saying Mars One has not yet put out any concrete technical explanations of how they will get to Mars and support the proposed habitats. Some pointed out that NASA has had issues with solar panels on its Mars rovers because of dust storms that erode the panels' surfaces and block the sunlight for long periods of time, making Mars One's plans to use solar panels for energy generation unsustainable for supporting human life.

But the man claiming to be Landsdorp mostly steered clear of the more scientific questions and directed users to the company's website.

One user going by the handle arcanosis commented: This is almost certainly a publicity stunt. Your answers are nontechnical, imprecise, absurdly optimistic, even quixotic.

If Mars One turns out to be a hoax, it wouldn't be the first such stunt originating from the Netherlands in recent months.  Dutch artist Floris Kaayk hoodwinked much of the media with his Human Birdwings project in March, in which he posted YouTube videos purportedly showing a human-powered pair of mechanical wings.

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