The much-hyped Mars One project may crash and burn before it even gets off the ground. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin and one of Mars One’s 100 finalists, recently spoke out on the project, and it’s starting to sound more like a pyramid scheme than a space exploration endeavor.
Mars One: revelations and implications
While Mars One originally led the public to believe that candidates were undergoing a strenuous vetting and interview process, it turns out that candidates have actually been ranked on a “points” system that has more to do with how much money they raise for the project than anything else.
Roche, who holds PhDs in physics and astrophysics, said he had originally signed up for the project out of curiosity, but he found himself increasingly worried about all the media coverage the project was receiving. One of his most striking revelations involves a press guide provided to the finalists in February, which asked that they “donate 75% of profits” from any speaking engagements to Mars One. According to Roche, the “Top 10 hopefuls” featured in The Guardian in February were simply the candidates who had brought in the most money for Mars One.
Additionally, Roche said that he was never made subject to any rigorous testing or psychological evaluations. In fact, the entirety of his interactions with Mars One staff boiled down to one ten-minute Skype interview with Dr. Norbert Kraft, the project’s chief medical officer, during which he was quizzed on material that had been given to him a month before.
Elmo Keep, who spoke with Roche and who has reported extensively on Mars One in the past, summarized Mars One’s current situation beautifully:
So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.
While Roche said coming forward was difficult, he felt he had too since he feared that “people (would) lose faith in NASA and possibly even in scientists…If I was somehow linked to something that could do damage to the public perception of science, that is my nightmare scenario.”
In a world in which the US Senate’s Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works throws a snowball on the Senate floor to supposedly disprove climate change, Roche’s concerns are frighteningly resonant.