Mars One Announces Plans for 'Floating Cities' on Venus and Jupiter's Moons
Mars One and its flagship project to colonize the Red Planet with a small group of trained laypeople has been called a lot of things—delusional, a scam, and (most kindly) unfeasible. The company's plans were famously torn apart in a live presentation by two MIT students, who examined the scheduling, budget, and hardware and found that the project was several times more ambitious than the Apollo missions (which CEO Bas Lansdorp frequently drew comparisons to) in terms of technology and equipment, despite having a planned budget that will be around 5 percent of the moon missions.
Despite admitting during the MIT presentation that the current Mars One plans were tentative at best and pushing back the proposed launch date to 2031, Lansdorp and the crew at Mars One have announced that they're beginning testing of their top 100 candidates for the Mars mission this year, which involves "indeterminate periods locked in a 200sq m cabin with complete strangers in a test of their psychological state." That "indeterminate" part is worth notice—similar simulations by Chinese and American projects have always had a fixed end date, but Mars One apparently wants to simulate the feeling that there may be no return to Earth. According to Lansdorp:
"There really is no escape; that is the biggest challenge. The first crew to make the trip will have the toughest time, they are on their own and the level of comfort will be very low. But the scarcity of water is nothing compared to the psychological impact."
See, Mars One doesn't have a plan for any of their Martian colonists to return to Earth. This in itself isn't exceptional, but the fact that these colonists will be given the bare minimum of supplies to survive makes the prospect of starving or dying of thirst much more real. That mention of the "scarcity of water" is a reference to the fact that Mars One astronauts will probably be forced to give up baths or showers for the first two years on the Red Planet.
But vague plans to strand colonists on Mars are so 2016—Mars One is already looking toward the future. According to Lansdorp:
"Mars won't be the final destination for humans looking to set up permanent settlements away from Earth. After that, space explorers will be thinking about floating cities in the atmosphere of Venus in an extremely large balloon, or moving to one of Jupiter's moons, or an asteroid."
It's unclear whether Lansdorp still plans to raise money for the project via his original method, which was selling the rights to make footage from the missions into something like a reality TV show. Either way, it's best to remember that there's a fine line between "ambitious" and "ridiculous"—Elon Musk has landed on the ambitious side of that line, while Mars One still seems to putter around on the ridiculous.