Mars One hits a media storm

The announcement last week by Mars One of the down-select to 100 candidates for Mars missions drew a lot of media attention but then it all turned rather negative with news that the reality show planned for the selection of the final 24 has fallen through and that little progress is happening regarding plans to send an unmanned lander and an orbiter to Mars in 2018:

A USA Today editorial gives a typical skeptical view: Mars One destined for dreamland: Our view – USA Today.

Mason Peck, Cornell professor, former NASA chief technologist, and an unpaid adviser to Mars One, provides a more optimistic outlook : A clear and audacious goal: Opposing view – Mason Peck/USA Today

Defeatism, cynicism and mindless conservatism didn’t get us to the moon.

I am confident that we have the know-how and the ingenuity to plan a successful colony. However, there are risks. The people who choose to take this journey will face privation and danger to life and limb, but we have always been a species of explorers and problem-solvers.

Our ancestors left Africa, Asia and Europe and settled the globe. Those of us who care about the scientific, economic and cultural benefits of exploring space need to set a goal like Mars One and do what it takes to achieve it.

My parents’ generation took us from Sputnik to footsteps on the moon in a decade. Now our generation needs to get on with this next giant leap.

Defeatism, cynicism and mindless conservatism didn’t get us to the moon.

Gerard’t Hooft, is a Dutch theoretical physicist, a Nobel laureate, and an “ambassador” for Mars One, says the project leadership should be far more conservative in its time table: Mars One plan to colonise red planet unrealistic, says leading supporter – The Guardian.

Bas Lansdorp, Mars One’s CEO and co-founder, continues to hold that the unmanned lander and orbiter projects are doable by 2018 and that the collapse of the reality show is leading to a documentary produced by another company:  Red Planet or Bust? Private Mars One Mission Faces Earthly Challenges – NBC

Lansdorp acknowledged that Mars One ended its collaboration with Endemol “because we could not reach agreement on the details of the contract.” But he said a TV documentary series was still in the works.

“We have contracted [with] a different production company that will produce the documentary series for us,” Lansdorp said. “They have already produced the trailer on our YouTube channel, and progress is good.”

Lansdorp said the name of the production company has not yet been released. He also emphasized that the TV project would be more along the lines of a behind-the-scenes documentary rather than a reality-TV competition to go to Mars.

“We’ve never planned a ‘reality TV series,'” Lansdorp wrote in his email. “A documentary series has always been our plan.”

As I stated the other day, Mars One is interesting if only for proving that there are plenty of well educated, talented people willing to go to Mars to stay.  And those people could actually get to Mars if SpaceX is successful in carrying out Elon Musk’s goals for drastically lowering the cost of getting to the Red Planet.

I expect that as ’t Hooft suggests the organization will eventually move the goals on its schedule several years to the right. It’s possible that such delays will burst the project’s bubble and enthusiasm for it will evaporate away. However, it’s possible that greater realism in its plans will instead lead to greater respect for its prospects.