This week we heard the news that the non-profit Mars colonization program, Mars One, had weeded down its 200,000 applicants to a much more manageable short-list of 660.
In 2012, the Mars One mission announced it was looking for four volunteers to become the first humans to colonize another planet. I'm sure many of us would jump at the opportunity to visit the Red Planet, but there is a rather massive catch: This is a one way journey. Any successful applicant to the program would be expected to travel to Mars in 2024, set up the basic infrastructure for further colonization, and eventually die there.
For some, this might seem like extremely long-winded suicide, but to others it is the chance to leave a legacy, start something new and perhaps even escape the responsibilities and pressures of Earth life. Below are some brief biographies of three of the Mars-bound hopefuls. Scroll further down for the actual documentary.
Ryan MacDonald - Leaving a Legacy
Ryan is a 21 year old physics student from Great Britain who claims he can mentally recall up to 90 digits of pi (we'll just have to take his word on that). He is currently helping to design a Thermal-IR camera for a future mission to one of Mars' moon, so it seems he certainly has the brain power to be part of the mission.
However, Ryan also has a personal reason for trying to tame the new Martian frontier: the desire to leave a legacy. He claims:
Hundreds of years down the line, who's going to know who was the President of the United States or something. But everyone will remember who was those first four people who stepped on Mars.
Dina Masodi - Achieving Something
Dina, an Iraqi-American computer science graduate, also has her own reasons for wanting to be one of the first humans onto Mars.
Dina spent much of her childhood in Iraq, and she believes leaving her home country may have provided her with valuable experience for the potential Mars One mission.
It also seems like Dina isn't terribly concerned with finding happiness on Earth. She describes 'love' as a simple emotional need which she feels she does not require, therefore meeting someone and settling down on Earth just isn't her cup of tea. Instead, she feels she could be much more use as a colonizer of Mars:
You're going to die here or there it doesn't really matter. Why you're going to die is what matters to me. If I died on Mars that would be an accomplishment.
Jeremias Naiene - Starting a New World
Jeremias Naiene is a doctor from Mozambique and is one of only seven candidates still in the running to hail from Africa.
He claims one of his main motivations for heading to Mars is leaving behind the problems on Earth and starting a fresh new society on another planet. He explains:
I think this world is not a good place to live anymore. We have so many diseases, we have so many army conflicts, we have natural disasters, we have inequalities, we have so many problems that I believe it's not possible to solve. I would like to see a better world compared to this one, I think a good way to solve those problems is to start from the beginning.
You can watch the entire ten minute documentary below:
Will This Actually Happen?
With the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars in 2012, interest in the Red Planet has exploded, and it wasn't long before talk began to center on sending humans to Mars.
Hollywood has already got at least one movie in production on the subject, Ridley Scott's [The Martian](movie:959366), while NASA also has their own mission planned in the 2030s. The privately operated Mars One mission, however, plans to beat NASA by over a decade.
The mission is headed up by the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, who has funded the operation through corporate investment, private donations and the selling of a reality television show which will be attached to the project.
However, despite some impressive claims, the Mars One mission has drawn a lot of criticism, especially regarding its timescale and funding. Many experts have claimed they've greatly underestimated the difficulty of reaching Mars, let alone setting up a survivable environment on the desolate planet.
Furthermore, others have highlighted the possible ethical issues of a private entity colonizing a planet. Indeed, with much of the funding coming from corporations, Mars One has already sold advertising space on its lander - meaning corporate branding will arrive on Mars at exactly the same time as humanity.
German astronaut Ulrich Walter has also been vocal in his criticism of the project, claiming the astronauts would only have a thirty percent chance of reaching Mars alive, while survival on the actual planet would be around twenty percent. He added:
They make their money with that [TV] show. They don't care what happens to those people in space... If my tax money were used for such a mission, I would organise a protest.
Source: The Guardian