The Bold Plan to Send 24 Business School Graduates to Mars to Die on TV

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From more than 202,000 applicants, the Mars One project has chosen 100 people who have made it to the next round in determining which 24 will be shot into space, probably never to be heard from again.

If you’re not familiar, Mars One is the ambitious – to put it lightly – plan to colonize Mars and to pay for it all with revenue from television ads by making it all a reality series. How ambitious, you ask? Well, they plan to start sending unmanned cargo to Mars next year, using rockets and materials that have mostly never been tested. A few years later, the chosen 24 colonists will take the 9-month trip to Mars, where they’ll supposedly set up all the housing and infrastructure they’ll need to sustain them for the rest of their miserable lives.

As you may guess, I’m a bit skeptical of the program. I love the idea of just going for something like this, regardless of whether we feel ready or not. Because I’m an impatient person, and I feel that for many things in life if you wait until the absolute perfect time to do something, you’ll never do it.

But that philosophy applies to things like moving to a new country, or getting a dog. It doesn’t apply to, say, deciding you’re going to live the rest of your days under the sea, like a mermaid, despite having no training in SCUBA diving or underwater architecture.

I’ve skimmed through the 100 people in this current Mars One round, and I found one engineer for about every 30 corporate accountants and international relations majors who think their best qualification for the job is being born in the ‘60s or having a spiritual outlook.

There’s going to be another round of applications this year, so it remains to be seen if they actually end up choosing 24 people who know what they’re doing, or if they err on the side of reality tv tropes and choose 24 people who will entertainingly fight and have sex on camera as they slowly march toward their cold and hungry deaths.

As much as I want to hate it, I have to say I’m really pulling for them. They have a lot of engineering problems to fix in the next ten years if they want to get anywhere close to even safely landing these people on the Martian surface – problems like how to use retrorockets to land when that technique has never been tested before without parachutes and with a ship full of people, or how to vent built-up oxygen produced by plants, as pointed out in a study by some MIT students last year.

But maybe the excitement this generates is just what we need to finally start solving those problems. I mean, will I ever learn to SCUBA dive if I don’t plan to live underwater by 2024? Probably not.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. This plan reminds of Richard Hore’s 1536 tourist cruise to Newfoundland, which did not turn out well. (Hore, the preachy captain in the link, survived to charter another ship, which he anchored off the coast of Wales and attempted to extort money from the passengers before we would take them ashore. According to S. E. Morison, he was sued by the crew for &lb; 280, presumably for non-payment of wages.)

    It also reminds me of the Golgafrinchans’ B Ark.

  2. I think what will kill them is perchlorate toxicity (or some other toxic in the Mars soil). I think they will be dead before they run out of food.

    That is if they ever make it to Mars (I doubt they will even launch any cargo). The money will somehow disappear before that happens.

  3. 1 engineer per 30 corporate accountants and international relations majors?
    Definitely the B ark :)

    I’m even more cynical about this than ever knowing what went into a bare minimum resupply of a fully established Antarctic base for one year. Essential cargo 200 tons and 50,000 liters of diesel fuel, all for just 15 people!
    That’s not a colony either, just a permanent base.

    1. Terraforming Mars (assuming it’s even possible) shouldn’t be left to the private sector. There’s no short-term benefit, and picking people for quirky personalities is a recipe for disaster.

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