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Mars One: A Gigantic Exercise in Self-Promotion

Slow news day, much? From out of nowhere Tuesday we learned that teams of aspiring junior astronauts are competing to make a one-way trip to colonise Mars. That’s right. They’re journeying around 140 million miles into space for a visit to the red planet with lift off planned for 2025.

Or not. Depends on how much you are willing to swallow the public relations folderol dished out by the Mars One project creators as they search for network partners to make the trip into a giant reality TV show.

They also need a viable funding model with cash. Lots of it. Preferably somebody else’s.

The idea was first announced in 2012 by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, with the following aim: “Human settlement of Mars is the next giant leap for humankind. Exploring the solar system as a united humanity will bring us all closer together.”

The latest media blitz is about awareness building and is just another step in an endless cycle of teasers designed to keep the interest (such as it is) alive.

This is how the Mars One website explains it:

From the initial 202,586 applicants, only 100 hopefuls have been selected to proceed to the next round of the Mars One Astronaut Selection Process. These candidates are one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars.

“The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder & CEO of Mars One. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”

The Mars 100 Round Three candidates were selected from a pool of 660 candidates after participating in personal online interviews with Norbert Kraft, M.D., Chief Medical Officer. During the interviews the candidates had a chance to show their understanding of the risks involved, team spirit and their motivation to be part of this life changing expedition.

“We were impressed with how many strong candidates participated in the interview round, which made it a very difficult selection” said Dr. Norbert Kraft.

On and on it goes. The BBC was so impressed that it breathlessly included a sizable chunk of this non-news in all its major newscasts complete with candidate interviews and YouTube promotional video.

(Local interest was sparked by the fact that four women and a man from the UK are among the final 100 candidates for the Mars One project.)

But I mean, really, this is just a TV show. No hard science will be involved. No details on the tens of billions of pounds needed to make it happen.

There isn’t even a vehicle available to take these brave young pioneers – and I use that phrase most advisedly – into space.

It is nothing but a gigantic exercise in self-promotion and brand building.

So call me a cynic. Query my lack of imagination. But does anyone REALLY trust Mars One is going to leave the launch pad?

I suppose that’s what passes for the spirit of modern adventure. Unless there is a media partner nothing is deemed fit to happen.

Whereas once the genuinely adventurous might sail around the world single-handed and non-assisted like Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969, or row across the Atlantic solo as John Fairfax did in the same year, or even copy Ed Hillary’s climb to the top of Mt Everest in 1953, today’s adventure must be pre-digested and pre-packaged into a reality show.

It’s just a pity television trivialises everything it touches. After all, it is about entertainment and nothing else. Fair enough. Just don’t try and sell a game show as interplanetary space exploration and expect me to believe it.

As for the final five who will be chosen for Mars One, I can think of a few inhabitants of the Palace of Westminster I would dearly love see strapped into a capsule and shot out into deepest space.

Whether or not they make the return trip home doesn’t worry me in the slightest.

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