Mars One Finalist Speaks Out Against Unrealistic, Money-Grubbing Mission

Wednesday, 18 March 2015 - 2:20PM
Mars
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 - 2:20PM
Mars One Finalist Speaks Out Against Unrealistic, Money-Grubbing Mission
Mars One recently narrowed down their shortlist to 100 hopefuls for their "groundbreaking" one-way trip to Mars. But throughout the entire process, there have been rumblings from all directions that the mission faces potentially insurmountable obstacles. Now Dr. Joseph Roche, one of those 100 finalists, has come out of the woodwork to speak out against Mars One, which he claims is both naively unrealistic in its timeline and is actively ripping off its applicants.

In a piece written for The Guardian, Roche said, "I am one of the final 100 candidates for the Mars One mission but it is unlikely that I will ever land on Mars. As much as I would love to be one of the first interplanetary scientists, a potential mission to Mars remains, for the moment, beyond our reach."

First, he spoke of the selection process, which was not particularly rigorous, to say the least. He claims that he was under the impression that there would be in-person interviews, but once he signed a non-disclosure agreement, it was revealed that he would only have a ten-minute Skype interview. Even worse, the questions were based on Mars One's own literature, which the applicants had had plenty of time to memorize. To his knowledge, none of the applicants have been interviewed in person.

"After completing the interview stage I felt that the selection process was not rigorous enough to reach the requisite standard of more traditional astronaut selection programmes. I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with several astronauts and if you spend any time with an astronaut you will soon see that they are as close to being superhuman as a person can be. To select such a person requires a comprehensive and exhaustive procedure."

He also commented on the widely cited MIT study, which assessed the feasibility (or, rather, the unfeasibility) of the Mars One mission. It found, among other things, that the build-up of oxygen would cause the settlers to suffocate, killing the first settler within 68 days. According to Roche, the proper course of action for Mars One would have been to establish a collaboration with these MIT scientists in order to circumvent these problems.

"These MIT research scientists are experts in space habitation and life support systems... The fact that Mars One did not engage with these scientists would suggest a certain naivety towards the obstacles that their ambitious plan faces."

But while these issues portray Mars One as naive and amateurish, some of Roche's claims portray the project as a flat-out scam. First, Mars One claimed that they received over 200,000 applications, but Roche is countering that it actually only received 2,761. Further, each applicant to Mars One was assigned a point value, seemingly to indicate their ranking among the other hopefuls. There was even a list of the top ten finalists in The Guardian based on this point system. But Roche claims that these points were entirely based on the amount of money donated to the project, rather than on any kind of merit.

"When you join the 'Mars One Community,' which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points," Roche told Matter. "You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them."

Further, he claimed that Mars One allows their applicants to give interviews with the media, but encourages them to donate at least 75% of the profits to the project. Sadly, this blatant greed isn't as surprising as it could be, as there have been pervasive rumors that Mars One doesn't have nearly enough money to achieve their ambitious goals. 

"If a one-way mission to Mars ever became possible then I would always volunteer," said Roche. "For an astrophysicist that is not a difficult decision to make, but it is also a moot point because I do not think we will see a one-way mission in my lifetime."
Science
Space
Mars