A one way trip to Mars is obviously not for the faint-hearted. Those going will have to come to terms with the fact that although they will be experiencing the wonders of an untouched part of our solar system, they will be experiencing this alone. For some, however, this is exactly why they are taking that risk. They will experience it alone so that others will not have to. This comes at a high price as medical care will be 225 300 000 km away and participants are at high risk of their mental state being adversely affected.

Due to the harsh realities that these explorers will have to face, the selection process is a rigorous one. Since April 2013 Lansdorp’s team has been screening the

202 586 resumes sent in from around the world by anyone who cares to pay the modest application fee. According to an article written by Jan Vermeulen titled “South Africans in the top 100 for a one-way trip to Mars”, the top 100 candidates were announced earlier this year, of which five are South African. Divashen Govender (23), Edwin Samuel le Grange (19), Kobus Vermeulen (31), Adriana Rose Marais (31) and Alexandra Doyle (29) may just have what it takes to be dubbed the latest 21st century explorers.

Round three of Mars One’s astronaut selection may be aired as a reality TV show around the world. During the next selection rounds teams will be formed and they will have to endure all the hardships of a permanent settlement on Mars. They will also participate in group challenges which will demonstrate their suitability to become one of the first humans on Mars. Those candidates who were not selected to continue will have a chance to reapply in a new round of applications that will open later in 2015.

It seems that any project of this magnitude, especially one that entails space exploration, brings a range of cynics to the surface. After all, there is still an ongoing debate about whether people really did land on the moon or if it was just a big hoax. It will take 210 days to reach Mars and the crew will have just 20 m3 of living space on the journey there. According to an article written by Kelly Dickson for Business Insider, the Mars One expedition is delusional. The budget is too low and it will not be possible to raise the amount of money needed in time, indicating a problem with the timeline. There are also too many unanswered questions surrounding how to sustain life once the crew gets there because it is unknown how humans will react to spending a prolonged period of time in space.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology did an in depth analysis titled “An independent assessment of the technical feasibility of the Mars One mission plan”, in which they look at the technology and architecture being used for the Mars One expedition and whether these technologies will be able to sustain life there. In their conclusion, they stated that many of the systems being used are not reliable and that the costs of completing this mission are exorbitant. They believe that the crew will suffocate within 68 days because the equipment will not be able to balance the oxygen levels. Nasa believes that no trip to Mars will be a success without them, and others believe that the Mars One expedition is a complete money-making scheme.

In an article written by Ashley Feinburg titled “Mars One is broke, disorganised and sketchy as hell”, Dr Joseph Roche, a professor at Trinity College’s School of Education in Dublin with a PhD in physics and astrophysics, highlights some of the questionable means of funding and also spoke about how the selection process applicants had to go through was seemingly lax. What was initially going to be a several day long, in-person interview and testing process eventually got whittled down to a ten-minute Skype call in which no psychological or psychometric testing was done. The TV production company, Endemol, which would have brought in funds of $6 billion, is now completely out of the picture as well.

Scheduled to land on Mars in 2025, only time will tell whether this trip will be a success or whether it really is just a money-making hoax.

Illustration: Faith Honey 

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