Remember that Dutch company that wants to establish the first manned colony on Mars in 10 years time? Yeah, well, surprise, surprise, it turns out it's probably all one big scam.
A finalist of the program, Dr. Joseph Roche, has now spoken to media outlets revealing that the entire operation seems to be pretty darn shady. Dr. Roche, who holds doctorate degrees in both physics and astrophysics, originally signed up to the private program out of curiosity. To his surprise, he found himself to be one of the 100 finalists of the project - despite the fact he received no testing.
Originally, Mars One claimed they had received 200,00 applications from all around the world, but Roche claims the actual number was in fact 2,761. There are now only 100 finalists still in the program, but Roche isn't quite sure how that happened.
He told Medium that he received no kind of psychological or psychometric testing, and in fact, he's never met anyone associated with the project in person. The only 'testing' he has received was a 10-minute Skype call with an interviewer. Roche stated in an interview:
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. That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.
Strange Financial Dealings
What's more, there seems to be some rather strange financial goings-on behind the scenes. Roche claims some finalists paid their way onto the list, and that one way to get ahead in the program is to buy their merchandise:
When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points. 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.
He also went on to claim that Mars One sent out guidelines about how to best deal with the media, and also requested that any guest appearance fees be donated to the project. Roche continues:
Others have been encouraged to help the group make financial gains on flurries of media interest. In February, finalists received a list of “tips and tricks” for dealing with press requests, which included this: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One."
Since Mars One hopes to fund much of their venture (which is estimated to cost $6 billion) through private investment and a reality television show, any figure individual finalists can donate would seem like a drop in the ocean - and yet they're asking for it anyway. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it?
The Outcome Doesn't Look Promising
Therefore, it looks like the Mars One mission is destined to fail before it even really got started. I can't imagine many of us are surprised by this. Personally, I'd put a bit more faith behind NASA and the ESA than I would behind a Dutch entrepreneur who hopes to colonize the solar system with the help of a reality TV show. I think Medium summed up the situation nicely:
So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.
Ultimately, Roche concludes there is a bigger issue at stake here. He suggests the eventual failure of Mars One could cause people to lose faith in real space-faring organizations like NASA. He claimed the last thing he'd want to do is be part of something which could damage the public perception of science.