In 1865, Jules Verne wrote From Earth to the Moon, an early science fiction novel about an American Civil War society’s attempt to launch three people to the moon in an oversized cannon. 104 years later, Neil Armstrong took his first step on this previously untouched territory. Man has nursed a developing fascination with the role of Homo sapians outside of Earth’s atmosphere for hundreds of years, and with the moon under our belts, the next conquest has been cited: Mars.
Since Viking 1 and Viking 2 in 1976, numerous rovers have been sent to gauge the Martian terrain, most recent of which – Curiosity – landed late last year. Safe in the knowledge we boast the technology necessary to make the eight-month journey to Mars, many are eager to begin the required planning, which could lead to visiting the Red Planet. A fleeting visit might not be enough to quench intellectual thirsts and so the quest for colonisation has begun.
Dutch organisation, Mars One, are a core frontrunner for this idea, and aren’t afraid to shy away from unconventional means. By 2023, the non-profit endeavour intends to actualise the vision of a colony on Mars. In order to fund such a sizeable project – $6 billion is required – Mars One intend to transform the venture into a decade-long, international media event to trump all of its predecessors.
The masterminds behind this endeavour, which launched in 2010, include Paul Römer, a television producer most noted for his work on reality TV juggernaut, Big Brother. Römer’s co-founding team are a talent-studded cast of engineers, physicists and doctors married with a PR and marketing staff, who are sure to elevate the project to the heights of fame and potentially even achieve their ambitious Mars mission.
Encompassing astronaut selection, training, technological progress, lift-off and – if all goes well – landing, Mars One intends to orchestrate one of the most ambitious reality television series ever to go into production. This week, after receiving more than 10,000 related enquiries, the application process was opened to the public. Men and women of all ages (though all are required to be above 18) have submitted video pitches explaining why they, above all others, should be one of four to receive a ticket to Mars.
While the prospect might sound exciting, it is not without consequences: especially considering the ticket in question does not guarantee a round trip. Stating on the website that returning to Earth “cannot be anticipated or expected,” applicants must be resilient to the easily overlooked downsides of fulfilling long-honed dreams of space travel.
Numerous and unpredictable downsides, too. Since the gravity on Mars is only 38% of that on Earth, astronauts subjected to this environment for extensive periods of time are likely to suffer severe reduction in muscle strength and bone density: part of the reason a return to Earth would not be feasible, since the body would no longer be able to cope with a stronger gravity. Not to mention the extremely low temperatures and erratic radiation levels that the Martian surface is known to bear.
Despite the scepticism the mission has inevitably attracted and the unlikely-verging-on-absurd marriage of reality television and planet colonisation, there’s a sliver of hope that Mars One’s mission is so insane that it might just work. Claiming to have incorporated “technical, financial, social-psychological and ethical components” into their preliminary plans, the project has secured deals with numerous technological and scientific suppliers. While a lot can happen in ten years, there’s a possibility that humans could be living on Mars by 2023. Now we just have to wait with baited breath and hope that a second coming of Nicki Grahame is not the first of our species to take steps on the Red Planet.