Mars One is a private space mission that hopes to send a group of people to Mars in a decade and leave them there to foster the first human colony. It has received endorsement and support from the likes of Gerard ’t Hooft, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But it has also been criticized on several counts, including treating a serious life-threatening scenario as a reality show for the purposes of monetization and seeking funding while being glib about nearly all the practical details.
Before applicants even get to see the application, they must pay an application fee of around $38 USD (the price varies depending on country of residence). They fill out a public-facing profile and answer several private questions about achievements and awards, incidents that have frightened or stressed them out and how they dealt with them, personality types they find difficult to handle, and how they deal with cultures other than their own. To date, 30,000 other Red Planet hopefuls have applied.
“I want to see the sun rise over a completely new horizon, in a completely new sky. I think that’s worth any price,” wrote Erica Meszaros, another Mars One applicant, in her personal essay.
Meszaros is a software developer by trade and interned with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. She states that astronauts are traditionally chosen “from the Air Force” or—more recently, with the success of $200,000 per flight projects like Virgin Galactic—from “those with deep pockets.”
Part of Mars One’s pitch has been that much of the technology for traveling to and maintaining residence on Mars already exists; it’s just a matter of marshaling resources and initiative to get there. Both Hamm and Meszaros echoed this sentiment. Despite being publicly vague on the details, Mars One leaders maintain that they know the cost of the mission ($6 billion) and that it can all be assembled and launched in 10 years.
All applicants make a video as part of their public facing profile discussing, in brief, why they want to or are suited for a mission to Mars. “I have a great sense of humor, so I really get along with everybody,” said Francisco, a 32 year-old Argentinian man who works in “the commercial area at a plastic containers factory.”
“I’ve got a feeling that I don’t belong here, but out there,” said Anders, a 51-year-old Swedish man who has the most popular profile on the site. “What makes me the perfect candidate? Well, I’m single. I’m flexible.”
“I believe that the challenge that I’m putting up with everybody… If anybody can challenge me with the knowledge and all the things that I can do, then I give up, but if not, I would like to be the first one to go,” said Vasile Sofroni, a 54-year-old Romanian man with the second most popular profile.