The first manned mission to Mars, slotted for 2024, is garnering funding by treating the selection process, training, and lives of its astronauts like a reality TV show.
Mars One is a privately-owned, not for profit space program, and it plans to send crews of four to the red planet every two years, starting in 2024. Their goal is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars – and they mean permanent, as there is no return ticket for those who boldly go. They are volunteering to die on another world.
Despite that macabre fine print, over 200,000 candidates applied to the program in 2013 (or 2,761, depending on who you ask), submitting videos and detailed personal profiles describing why they’d be the best of the best civilian astronauts. Last month, Mars One released the Final 100 – that is, the massively culled list of international candidates for the coveted role of first four humans on Mars, some of whom are as old as 60 or as young as 19.
On their site, you can donate some money or purchase some merch in order to become a supporter and receive an invitation to the online Mars One community. Once registered, you’ll receive voting rights on the final 100 candidates – think voting astronauts off the island, as it were – and get to participate in ranking and helping choose the penultimate four astronauts.
Mars One has received mixed public responses, with some supporters lauding the innovative, reality-show style funding structure, and others decrying the crowdsourced process as incompatible with reliable, scientific space missions. The TV deal itself is rumored to be rocky territory, and the future of the project, and the legitimacy it carries, is unclear.
Whether or not Mars One will succeed in setting up a permanent, sustained human settlement remains to be seen, but the company claims to be right on track: before the first manned mission in 2024, a series of unmanned rover, equipment, and exploratory missions will pave the way for human habitation.