TV show offers tickets to Mars

2012-08-13 09:40
A data controller monitors the Mars rover Curiosity from the Deep Space Network's control room at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (Damian Dovarganes, AP)

A data controller monitors the Mars rover Curiosity from the Deep Space Network's control room at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (Damian Dovarganes, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


VIDEO: Mars One mission

2012-08-13 09:16

The YouTube video illustrates the Mars One manned mission to the red planet.WATCH

The Hague - As the world marvels at the latest US Mars landing, a Dutch start-up is aiming to beat Nasa at its own game by sending the first humans to the red planet - and film all as a reality show.

The big hitch: It's a one-way trip.

Fact, fiction or publicity stunt from the land that launched reality TV?

The start-up, called Mars One, says it is dead serious about landing four astronauts on Mars by 2023, seven years ahead of the US space agency's target, and plans to start the search for volunteers in 2013.

Experts are sceptical, but Mars One has won backing from none other than Dutch Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft, who won the 1999 prize for physics.

Radiation exposure

"My first reaction was: 'This will never work'. But a closer look at the project convinced me. I really think this is possible," 't Hooft said.

No one has yet tried to put man on Mars and scientists question whether radiation exposure would even allow humans to survive the trip.

As for space agencies' attempts since 1960 to land unmanned craft, only about half have succeeded, with the US in the clear lead.

And though six missions did make it to Mars - including Nasa's Curiosity rover that set down on 5 August to hunt for signs of past life and prepare for a possible human mission - scientists have no way, yet, to get spacecraft back.

Sound discouraging? Not to the man behind Mars One, mechanical engineer Bas Lansdorp, 35.

He estimates its price tag at a hefty $6bn, more than twice the $2.5bn for Curiosity, Nasa's biggest mission yet, and said the idea for financing came after talks with Paul Romer, one of the Dutch creators of Big Brother, the first reality show in 1999 that was a smash hit and spawned versions, and big profits, worldwide.

"Funding will be made possible through the media spectacle built around the adventure," he said.


For Lansdorp, "the conquest of the red planet is the most important step in the history of mankind", even if he concedes that many aspects of Mars One are still uncertain.

Among these are the ethics and legality of asking people to finish their lives in outer space, under TV scrutiny.

Other critics say Mars One seems more focussed on the monetisation - rather than the feasibility - of the project.

Under Lansdorp's plan, choosing and training the astronauts, their months-long space journey and their lives on Mars would all be televised - along the lines of Big Brother where a small group was isolated in a house and constantly filmed by TV cameras.

The Dutch engineer, who previously worked in the field of wind power, has teamed up with a physicist, an industrial designer and a communications specialist. They would run the operation, he said, and technical aspects like building a space ship and living quarters on Mars would be outsourced to companies that were "most qualified".

He has even drawn up a schedule. Selection and training of astronauts is set to start next year, then modules for the space station, food and robotic vehicles would be sent between 2016 and 2022.

A first group of four men and women would set foot on Mars in April 2023, Lansdorp said, with others to follow until there was a colony of 20 people a decade later. They would mainly conduct scientific experiments, notably looking for signs of life, like Curiosity.


On a planet with an average temperature of -55°C whose atmosphere mainly of carbon dioxide, Lansdorp said oxygen would be produced from water found below Mars' surface.

For Chris Welch, an engineering professor at France's International Space University in Strasbourg, getting oxygen this way was "possible in theory" but highly uncertain.

And "landing a person on Mars - why not?" he said.

"But landing four people and keeping them alive on one spot - that's much harder. From a technical standpoint, I'd say it's fifty-fifty - but it's still a courageous try," said Welch, who also questioned whether $6bn could be raised "via television".

At the European Space Agency, Jorge Vago, an expert on its Mars exploration project ExoMars, said turbulence on the planet made it virtually impossible to land two craft at the same place, as foreseen by Mars One.

"If the robot vehicle which has to build the living module lands 100km or even 20km away, it will be very difficult."

He also said eruptions from the sun that release ionised material into space could "burn" astronauts and damage their ship.

Despite the doubts, a firm note of support has also come from the Netherlands own Space Society, the umbrella group for Dutch companies working in the space industry.

Its chair Gerard Blaauw called Lansdorp's plan a "visionary idea to combine media and aerospace", in comments on the Mars One website, saying "this merger... alone means Mars One is worth watching!"
Read more on:    space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.