Here’s the pitch: You can be one of the first humans on Mars, but you aren’t coming back. What would you say?
For the applicants to the Dutch non-profit Mars One, the answer is an emphatic “yes,” and the company is hoping to start handing out these one-way tickets to the Red Planet as early as 2024. Now, from a pool of 200,000 hopefuls who applied last year, the field has winnowed to 100. And you can meet them all.
Of these 100 applicants, 24 will eventually be chosen for six 4-person teams. The next step, at least according to this fantastic graphic from the Washington Post, is to start testing the applicant’s mathematics, survival skills, and ability to deal with each other. Rigorous training will continue until rovers and living units are robotically deposited on Mars sometime between 2020 and 2024.
There is a curious thread running through these applicants. There has to be. It takes a certain kind of outlook of life to want to take on a one-way mission, especially one that a recent MIT study concluded would be fatal shortly after two months on the Martian surface. The impression I get is that it is a combination of desperation and an adventurer’s spirit, depression and hopes for a legacy.
This odd feeling is best captured by “If I Die on Mars,” a short documentary interviewing three Mars One hopefuls:
Personally, I’m conflicted over Mars One as an idea. I don’t think that humanity’s next push across the solar system should be led by just anyone with a dream and or nothing to lose. There’s a good reason we look for “the right stuff.” Mars One has made the next giant leap look like a reality show, no matter if the applicants will be trained as rigorously as astronauts by the time the first rocket launches. It all seems rather reckless.
But maybe that recklessness, that willingness to plunge into the abyss no matter your fate, is part of the pioneer that I am missing.
IMAGE: Mars One
Author’s Note: The author of this post was asked to provide commentary for the video above, though without monetary compensation.