Mars One, a nonprofit Dutch organization, handpicked 100 finalists for its plans to establish a self-sufficient colony of 24 people on the Red Planet in about ten years. Although scientists doubted the organization’s financial and technical possibilities to do so, the greatest hit for the mission came only recently, when one of the finalists expressed big personal doubts about the colony’s success.
Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, published an essay in a British newspaper where he argued that Mars One’s plans are a bit too ambitious for mankind’s current possibilities. “I do not think we will see a one-way mission in my lifetime, “ Roche wrote, while nevertheless praising the Dutch organization for its “refreshing new idea.”
Roche reportedly became dissatisfied with Mars One’s decision to publish a ten candidates shortlist the Irishman claims to be based more on the donations each of them made to the organization than on performance criteria. He also accused the Dutch NGO of getting itself isolated within the scientific community, a strategy he believes to be harmful for the endeavor.
It is needless to say that Roche got himself excluded from the selection process after he published his essay.
Mars One spokeswoman Suzanne Flinkenflögel rapidly dismissed his accusations about biased candidate selection, indicating that most candidates “have never contributed financially beyond the application fee, and there are many that did contribute significantly, but were not selected to proceed to the next selection round.”
Probably unrelated to Roche’s criticism, the Mars One mission has indeed started to show signs of weakness. Their initial plan was to begin sending people on a one way trip to the Red Planet starting from 2024. The colony was supposed to be founded by a four-member crew, with four more people being added every two years.
But the company has recently announced their expectations have been delayed by two more years, due to a lack of investment in the project. The NGO intended to first send robots on Mars in 2018, prior to the establishment of the colony, but CEO Bas Lansdorp claims insufficient funding means they won’t be able to fit the forecasted timeline.
Lansdrop reassured the project supporters that Mars One has already contacted enough sponsors to ensure the success of its venture, but “paperwork is taking much longer than we expected.” We might not be seeing any colonists sent to Mars sooner than 2027.