Led by Bas Lansdorp, Mars One is set to put the first human beings onto the surface of Mars, a feat which has been cogitated over for many decades. However, with the space adventure looking set to be a one-way trip, we ask who are the characters that would want to embark upon such a mission, and what would be their motivation? With some of the applicants attending a conference in Washington, some of our questions were answered. The Mars One journey continues.
The application process, which began back in April 2013, saw a total of 78,000 individuals register for the selection process within the first two weeks of launch.
A frenzy of participants flocked to the Mars One website, looking to join the program and leave all of their earthly belongings behind. Once the team has been selected and sent to the barren surface of Mars, there is no guarantee they will be granted a return ticket. Mars One officials indicate the participants are to be transited to Mars to help with colonization efforts, paving the way for others to join at a later date; the group maintain it is unrealistic to be able to offer participants a return journey.
Recently, a number of the applicants convened in Washington at a conference, dubbed the “Million Martian Meeting.” The event saw four wannabe space explorers, who had signed up to the Mars One program, assembling to form a discussion panel to answer a series of questions posed by the audience.
In reality, however, the conference was packed to the rafters of Mars One applicants, many of whom were sitting in the audience.
First to be introduced was doctor Leila Zucker, aged 45. She found out about the application process from her husband. Zucker also selected her call sign “Doc,” to which the host was unimpressed and then asked the panelists to assign original call names for one another.
Eclectic in appearance, Austin Bradley (aged 32) also joined the group, an ex-Army imagery analyst and paratrooper. When describing his interaction with fellow Mars One volunteers, Bradley said it was “like having a family.” He explains that the shared Mars One experience enabled each of the space lovers to share and discuss a common interest.
Joseph Sweeney (aged 24) had been a college student for six years, who claimed he had not entirely mapped out his future career path. When asked about the potential risks involved in Mars One, Sweeny claimed he was an “eternal optimist… if the risk was 99 percent, or something like that, you’ve still got that one percent where things can go right…” a comment which prompted laughter from the audience. Sweeney had also created an “Aspiring Mars Group” Facebook page, which has managed to accrue over 2,000 members.
Lastly, Aaron Hamm (aged 29) is a hotel manager, claiming to have had a lifelong interest in visiting Mars.
On the Mars One website, a “road map” of the team’s future ambitions is outlined. Once some of the final groups of volunteers have been selected, they must endure a rigorous, full-time training regimen to ensure their suitability for the mission.
Those candidates lucky enough to have been selected will be trained in survival techniques, and will be expected to grow their own source of food, maintain and repair equipment, and will need to sharpen their skills in basic medical care.
Mars One Journey
Mars One is the brain-child of a Dutch company, established in 2011, who have designs on the Red Planet’s colonization. The group hope to begin this intrepid mission by as early as 2016, with the deployment of a high-bandwidth communication satellite (ComSat). This will permit transmission of data backwards and forwards from Mars, and will be the start of a multipronged effort to lay the ground work, as it were, for the arrival of Mars One applicants.
However, Mars One applicants are not expected to step foot on the planet until 2023, as a suitable outpost site needs to be selected and prepared. This process will be achieved using a rover, which will scout for a safe environment, offering an adequate supply of water and consistent source of solar energy. Upon finding such a site, the rover will commence clearance of the area, in preparation for solar panels to be erected.
If all goes according to plan, the outpost will be configured by 2021, ready to receive the Mars One participants.
An array of landing capsules will be dispatched to Mars’ surface, housing Life Support Units, supplies, Mars One volunteers, rovers and Living Units.
A second rover is set to harness the functionality of the Life Support Systems to extract water from Martian soil; this will be achieved by evaporation, using an oven-based system to melt subsurface ice. The resultant water is then used for one of two purposes, either for human consumption or for generating oxygen.
According to the project’s architects, Mars One will not be reliant upon new technologies. They maintain the equipment already exists, it simply needs customizing for life on Mars. Indeed, the team are already starting to develop contracts, with Paragon Space Development Corporation already having been signed up to help with the design of the life support equipment.
Next Phase of Selection
During the second phase of the selection process, chosen candidates will be medically assessed by a professional physician to ensure they are fit for their Martian adventure. A selection committee will then interview the remaining candidates, and decide who makes it to round three.
According to the Mars One website, round three will likely involve something not too dissimilar to American Idol, with participants involved in a “regional selection round.” The Mars One group anticipate the process to be broadcast globally, using television and the Internet. The website also refers to one of the potential approaches, which could be implemented to select candidates:
“The audience will select one winner per region and Mars One experts will select additional participants to continue to round four.”
Round four will be broadcast globally. Applicants will form “international groups,” who must demonstrate their capacity to handle “harsh living conditions” and cooperate successfully with other members of their designated team. However, these selection procedures are subject to change.
As the Mars One journey continues, we look forward to meeting some more the diverse range of characters, aspiring to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface. Meeting the applicants was just the first step, now come the years of intense preparation and hard work.
By: James Fenner