Mars One recently published a video in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One’s human mission to Mars. The video and the transcript of the interview can be found below.
What do you think of the recent news articles that doubt the feasibility of Mars One?
At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission. We get a lot of criticism from our advisors and that is also exactly what we want from them. The recent bad press about Mars One was largely caused by an article on medium.com, which contains a lot of things that are not true. For example, the suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis on how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true and this is very easy to find that on our website. There are a lot of current Round Three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One and there are also lot of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One. The two things are not related at all and to say that they are is simply a lie. The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.
Concerns have been voiced about the thoroughness of the astronaut selection process. What is your response to that?
We started our astronaut selection with over 200,000 applications that were submitted online. The application included a video and a lot of psychological questions for our candidates. We used that to narrow down the candidates to about 1000 that had to do a medical check, which was very similar to the check for NASA astronauts. All the remaining candidates then underwent an interview. The interview and all other parts of the selection process were lead by Norbert Kraft, our Chief Medical Officer. He has worked on astronaut selection for 5 years at the Japanese Space Agency and at NASA he researched crew composition for long duration space missions.
Interestingly, it is not so complex to determine who is not qualified to go to Mars, which is what we have been doing so far. Our next step is to find out, from the people who we think might be qualified, which ones have what it takes. The selection process will be much more thorough from here on. We will bring our candidates together, we will put them through team and individual challenges, there will be much longer interviews, and there will be much a bigger selection committee. This is the way we will determine who are good enough to enter our training process.
Will there be a revenue share between the candidates and Mars One when candidates participate in Mars One related commercial activities?
We are preparing a contract that our Round Three candidates will need to sign that deals with commercial activities. It is very important that Mars One controls which Mars One related commercial activities our candidates can participate in because we need to make sure that the different activities do not conflict with each other. There will be a revenue share because our candidates do not receive a salary from Mars One yet. That’s why it is fair that our candidates get a part of what Mars One receives for those commercial activities. It is very different in my case because I get a salary from Mars One. When I do a keynote speech, the entire speaking fee goes to Mars One.
Actually, a lot of our candidates have indicated that they are not interested in receiving part of those revenues. Many want all the money to go to Mars One’s mission – but that is really up to them.
Does Mars One have a production company and a broadcaster for the astronaut selection documentary series?
We were very close to a deal with Endemol owned Darlow Smithson productions but in the end the deal fell apart on final details in the contract and therefore Mars One ended that cooperation. We have worked with a new production company since November of last year. They are currently selling the documentary series to an international broadcaster. There is no deal in place yet but it is looking very promising and there is a lot of interest.
Is a $6 billion budget enough for such a complex mission?
NASA’s lowest cost estimate that I have ever seen was about $35 billion but let’s not forget that the Mars One mission is very different. We are organizing a mission of permanent settlement where we do not need to worry about the return trip, which is where most of the complexity lies. The return trip involves developing bigger rockets that can get the systems to Mars, developing a bigger landing system to land the large components for the return mission on Mars, and developing a whole new launch system that can launch from Mars while even from Earth a launch is very difficult. Our $6 billion cost figure comes from good discussions that we have had with established aerospace companies from around the world. They have already been building systems for the ISS and for unmanned missions to Mars, which are similar to the ones we need. We are very confident that our budget will be enough.
How is the funding of the mission progressing?
The Mars One mission will primarily be funded through investments. We have had a very successful investment round in 2013, which has financed all the things that we have done up to now. We have actually come to an agreement with a consortium of investors late last year for a much bigger round of investment. Unfortunately, the paper work of that deal is taking much longer than we expected. I now think that it will be completed before the summer of this year, which means that we will not be in time to finance the follow up studies that Lockheed Martin needs to do for our first unmanned mission in 2018. This unfortunately means that we will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027.
So there is a two year delay, what does that mean for Mars One?
Going to Mars is very difficult, for example NASA has been talking about going to Mars in 20 years for more than 45 years now. Of course, NASA needs a return mission which is much more complex than our one way mission but it shows how difficult Mars exploration is. At the same time, Mars One has already achieved a lot. We have had our first contract with Paragon Space Development Corporation for the suits and life support systems, our first contract with Lockheed Martin for our unmanned mission, we have a very impressive board of ambassadors with a nobel prize laureate, and a great advisory board with people like Mason Peck, NASA’s former Chief Technologist. I believe we are on track and moving in the right direction. We may have a two year delay now but we show that people are interested in Mars One and in Mars exploration. People want this to happen and it is my conviction that as long as we can show that we are moving in the right direction, that we are getting the right companies under contract, and we are getting these contracts done, then the world will accept that we have a delay in getting our humans to Mars. Additionally, is it really a failure if we land our first crew two, four, six, or even eight years late? I would be extremely proud if we could make that happen and Mars One is still fully committed to keeping that on track.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense