I like going to new places as much as possible, but recently have felt burnt out from the whole world-traveller habit. I'm sure I'll pick up again soon, I just have to figure out a totally new destination, void of memory and underestimated by my imagination. Looks like I might have found my answer, via Mars One, which aims to create the first human settlement on Mars. Adding to the intrigue, Mars One is apparently looking to add reality show elements to the mix. Yeah, you read that right.
Check this vacation package: A seven month journey without showering (Just 213 days' worth of moist clean towelettes for four) balanced with a satisfying three hours of exercise per day, and extremely tight quarters (with the possible interruption of solar storms which would require that passengers crawl deeper inro the rocket's shelter area for days). It's like Survivor, but it'll take 10 years of passing immunity challenges to make it aboard. Sounds like one of the more interesting passages I've come across in the Rough Guide (Will there be shrimp with garlic?)
Enough though – is this for real? According to Mars One, "Yes, it is!" They say they've been planning a Mars trip since January 2011 in secret, and only recently could they remove their embargo once they realized it could happen. They've received letters of interest from big-leaguers Surrey, Thales Alenia, and space's recent commercial debutant, SpaceX. Hooking up with these companies as suppliers, Mars One aims to call on a general audience to participate in selecting the first person to leave foot prints on the surface of the Red Planet.
"Our biggest challenge is acquiring funding. Once we do, it is on," Mars One exclaims on their site, saying the company's trip will help produce "the biggest media event in history!"
Looks like Dancing with the Stars will have to truly take the sideshow stage of reality TV as Mars One looks to reacquaint audiences with Big Brother creator Paul Römer, who, in the end of April, "agreed to become a Mars One ambassador. An established expert on grasping the attention of a global public… The media factor is a vital component of Mars One's plan. We want to create an immense international media storm focused on the astronaut selection and how they prepare for their journey to Mars. We cannot think of anyone more suitable for advising us on this than Paul Römer."
In the ten-year plan, auditions begin next year, 2013, when Mars One says they'll, "build a replica of the Mars settlement on an Earth desert to help the astronauts prepare and train… astronaut selection and the preparations in the simulated Mars base will be broadcast on television and online for the public to view." There will be four finalists each year, totaling 40 astronauts by the time the first manned mission takes off, September, 14th, 2022.
But wait a sec? It's a one-way ticket? Yes, bizarre, we know. But according to the plan, it's still only feasible to do it this way. However, come 2025, a fresh crew of little brothers will show up, possibly bringing along a new rover for them to explore with. While they won't completely exclude the possibility of a return trip from a growing Martian settlements in the future, we shouldn't gripe: The emigrants will enjoy "[u]nlimited access to email and other communication channels to keep in touch with friends and family back on Earth."
When I wandered further into Mars One's FAQs, the layers of hope and speculation grew thick and tangled in an increasingly fanatical dream. The firm begins to take mythological shortcuts to history questions that need to be taken a little more seriously by those dabbling in rocket science: "Why did Columbus travel west? Why did Marco Polo head east?" Mars One also waxes poetic: "Because it is that pull, that unknown, that prospect of adventure that compels mankind."
Ouch, can someone call bullshit? Why'd they have to say that? They were on such a roll! I'm sure if Marco Polo and Columbus went in search of TV celebrity, this explanation might work. But they didn't, so it won't. It just can't outweigh the nature of their speculations, their speedy assessment of foreign land.
Mars One, you can't call colonialism an inadvertent side effect of adventure, at least not in a room full of rocket scientists. I'm not a Columbus hater; he pulled off some crazy feats, even if he did do some fucked-up things. However, I feel it's safe to say he didn't do all that for the existential purpose of boldly doing it.
I'm sorry you forgot, Mars One, but get back on track: Polo and Columbus endured their trips in the name of global commerce, and your mission is hardly any different. Your project is sweet enough without sugarcoating it with wanderlusty superlatives. One thing is for sure, the first journey to Mars will be crowd-sourced by people looking for fame, if all goes as planned. But can you please throw an SAT in there? The viewers can be idiots, by all means they should be. Then you can feed the riff on Chris Columbus and Marco Polo, benefitting from such a bogusly unfortunate sentiment of historical fantasy. But, for the sake of mankind's image, let's not fill the first colony on Mars with a bunch of attention-starved reality show clowns.