Is This App the Secret to Democratizing Real-Life Space Exploration for All of Humanity?
A couple years ago, Mars One made headlines by offering anyone the chance to become an astronaut. Unfortunately for its members, it turned out that Mars One's real priorities (in order) were: 1) sell merch, 2) make a reality TV show based on its selection process, and 3) actually figure out how to get people to space. Now, a small, crowd-funded company called Space Nation seems to be picking up where Mars One left off, except this time it maybe it will actually work.
At the core of Space Nation is the Space Nation Navigator app, where you sign up and start doing challenges, i.e. playing games on your phone. Some of them involve physical tests, like telling you to run a certain distance, while others are supposed to test your mind by playing games similar to Space Harrier.
If you make it onto the leaderboard's Top 100, you might receive a letter from Space Nation HQ, offering you an invitation to attend a 12-week astronaut-training course. At the end, one candidate with the right stuff is chosen to go on a real-life space mission. In time, Space Nation hopes that mission will take their contestant to the ISS.
There are a couple concerning things about Space Nation, however.
The first is that, like Mars One, Space Nation plans on funding itself partly by selling the rights to a reality show that follows its astronaut contestants as they compete to make it into space.
Second is their apparent use of micropayments on the app, which seems reminiscent of Mars One's option to contribute money to the program in order gain an advantage in the selection process.
Space Nation is also billing itself as having a larger education mission, in addition to "[democratizing] space travel".
According to Vähä-Jaakkola, one of the co-founders, "There's a self-improvement and self-development core of everything we do. We can't send everyone to space—but these life skills taught in the app are beneficial for everyone."
Between the reality show, the online space lifestyle magazine, the app, and their educational mission, it seems like Space Nation's focus is split in a lot of different directions—sending someone to space may be their selling point, but it's not essential to them making money.
But maybe Mars One has made us jaded and cynical. If Space Nation is what it claims to be, then the 21st century just became 200 percent cooler. And a lot more like The Last Starfighter.