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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Mars One astronaut selection announcement

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

21-04-2013 8:29 CDT

Topics: events and announcements, Future Mission Concepts, human spaceflight, commercial spaceflight

Today I am on my way to New York City, where I will be serving as the moderator for Mars One's first press briefing. I'll let Mars One explain who they are and what they are trying to accomplish:

Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn, and grow. Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive astronauts every two years. To accomplish this, Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies. It is both economically and logistically feasible, in motion through the integration of existing suppliers and experts in space exploration.
Mars One

Mars One

Mars One
A vision for the Mars One project, whose goal is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2023.

Tomorrow's press briefing is at 9:00 PDT / noon EDT / 1600 UTC and will contain an announcement about its astronaut selection program. There's a hint as to what this is about on their homepage:

We invite you to participate in this journey, by sharing our vision with your friends, by supporting our effort and, perhaps, by becoming the next Mars astronaut yourself.

I've embedded the webcast player below. Here is who will be on the panel:

  • Bas Lansdorp, Co-Founder and CEO, Mars One
  • Gerard 't Hooft, Nobel laureate and Ambassador of Mars One
  • Norbert Kraft, Chief Medical Officer, Mars One
  • Grant Anderson, Sr. VP Operations, Chief Engineer and Co-Founder, Paragon Space Development Corporation
  • Bryan Versteeg, Mission Concept Artist, Mars One

Media who are not present can ask questions via Twitter; I'm not sure yet whether they want to use a hashtag for that or if you're just supposed to @mention them on Twitter (they are MarsOneProject).

You may be wondering what The Planetary Society has to do with Mars One. We are not a sponsor, but we wish them well. We are delighted to see so many privately funded organizations setting their sights on sending humans to space, and we hope that they will succeed.

See other posts from April 2013


Or read more blog entries about: events and announcements, Future Mission Concepts, human spaceflight, commercial spaceflight


LifeLover: 04/21/2013 12:12 CDT

I hope they really do it! But I wouldn't volunteer to spend the rest of my life in a tent in a deadly desert with very poor internet connection. Surely very exciting the first few days, but then... And I'm afraid the TV viewers they are hoping for, will feel the same. How are they supposed to precision land the modules so close to each other? MSL had a landing ellipse of 20 km by 7 km, inspite of a very elaborate landing system. It reminds me of this brave project from 1897: (Even the poor homing pigeon died)

Paul McCarthy: 04/22/2013 01:24 CDT

People here will be ideal to point out the undoubtedly abundant holes in what I wonder below, but then I've wished to have this explained to me for some time, so please excuse my ignorance: To terraform Mars turns out to require vast inputs. To deliver vast inputs, or sufficiently large on-site machinery for vast inputs, over vast distances may well be impractical. Clearly, inputs with maximum possible "leverage" will be required. Making small orbital changes of objects, with (very) long lead-times, is something which may require only small input and therefore offer (very) large leverage. Would a suitable body (presumably a comet) with maximal load of greenhouse precursors like CO2, CH3, H2O, CO etc have a net greenhouse effect if impacted on Mars? Are such diversions possible (even with very long lead-times)? If so, are they possibly the lowest-input terraforming methodology available? Presumably any human settlement would permanently rule-out such an endeavour?

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/22/2013 08:17 CDT

Really? I'm really sorry Emily, but IMHO, MarsOne represents nothing more than a circus and a joke, and a really bad one at that! The 'plan' they have developed, is neither 'precire' nor 'realistic' and it's hardly based 'upon existing technologies'. More to the contrary. I don't think that the general public has realised that space exploration is not a 'Big Brother'-type reality show and Mars exploration and colonisation is not TV fantasy, an escapism-type program to watch, to pass the time lightly by. I'm really saddened that this whole endeavor is getting the spotlight, turning true space exploration into a bad joke.

William C: 04/22/2013 03:49 CDT

@ Leonidas Papadopoulos: I don't believe that Mars One is turning space exploration into a joke. I do believe that it is generating interest in space travel. As far as the reality TV angle goes, you are most likely correct regarding it's outcome. However, even if the endeavor never reaches the point of liftoff, it is planting a small seed of an idea in peoples minds that Mars is not out of reach and, perhaps, going there won't seem so nonsensical. I recognize that this is in fact very much a pulp culture angle for human space travel, however, when it comes to the issue of human spaceflight, people must be reached on all mental levels or we will never have a culture where enough people care for anything significant to happen. High brows sharing their interests with other high brows is great and all but stalls out; everyone else has to be dragged in somehow. During the 90's the current healthy and growing state of a commercial spaceflight industry would have seemed far fetched for a date as soon as ours, and now that's unfolding beautifully. In a manner of years Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and the rest... will be sending people to space just for the fun of it. A cultural shift in favor of accepting as normal, and aggressively pursuing human space flight is taking place fast (and finally). This is the perfect time to throw something like this out there, regardless of how it turns out. The sooner popular opinion gets the hoi polloi into space suits, the sooner we will be able to mount efforts in asteroid mining, and when the people of Earth realize how much money is in those rocks the sooner we will reach the stars.

LifeLover: 04/22/2013 04:43 CDT

William Why should humans leave Earth? I mean, in our or our childrens or our grandchildrens lifetime? For more than experiments in LEO. A human on the Moon or on Mars is a very very bad idea. Machines could do very much more, much cheaper. Seeing Charlie Chaplin on Mars would only be non-scientific entertainment. NASA must end the useless but prestigious human spaceflight altogether, in order to save real planetary science, considering the coming 30% budget cuts which are mathematically necessary, best case! The "go to MARS ONce" concept, (now recruiting fools) is really great comedy! That would establish it as the planet of death. I do, as you too seem to, hope that they are bluffing and just try to use this joke in order to increase astronomy media interest among children.

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/22/2013 08:19 CDT

@William C: I couldn't agree more and couldn't have said it better myself! My problem is with the concept of MarsOne, not with the concept of opening up space exploration to the general public. IMHO, MarsOne is trivialising the whole thing. They want to turn manned space missions into a reality-TV-type of program. The thing is that space exploration per se, isn't (and can never be) reality TV. Where do I start? Are they so sure that the general public will support them and give them the viewing figures they'd want, after the launch? When the general (non-space interested) public thinks of space, they tend to think of fast-track action, 'shoot-em up' sequences, and exotic and sensual aliens-the stuff that constitutes a typical Hollywood blockbuster. Real-life Mars exploration will be the exact opposite. It won't be 'Star Wars'. Rather it'll be something like '2001'-long and silent orbital maneuvers, 'boring' technical chatter, and vast amounts of 'doing nothing' until you get there-8 or 9 months. Real-life day-to-day living in space won't be like what we see in the movies. I don't want to imply that space exploration is boring and uninteresting, because from my perspective, even a long interplanetary cruise is spectacular, but is it so interesting for the general public? How many people that don't have an interest in space, find '2001' enjoyable and exciting? There's also a historical experience. Even at the height of the Apollo program, when people were going to the Moon (can you imagine something more spectacular?), by Apollo 12, everyone was rapidly losing interest. It took Apollo 13 a near catastrophe, for Apollo to make headlines again. And after that, by Apollo 17, how many were watching anyway? And I have moral issues as well. If MarsOne launches and those behind it ultimately can't support the first crew due to financial reasons. What then? Will we say, 'oh well' and leave everyone on Mars die because everyone else on Earth would have lost interest

William C: 04/23/2013 11:43 CDT

@LoveLife: BTW - I like your handle. A little ironic considering our conversation though : p

Bob Ware: 04/23/2013 11:56 CDT

LP, regarding your 'moral issues' paragraph; for this to work they need more than a crew of 4. With 20 - 24 as a crew size they could do it. With multiple Orion Spacecraft centrally docked to a round trip booster post departure they could have a sizeable spacecraft. Upon arrival they would TAD (undock and then separate from the adapter which would house the Mars lander, then dock for crew entry and landing. Once landing is established, prior to the launch window closing, the orbital crew would fly Orion back home and return anyone who decided to get out of the mission. Atleast 20 would have to land. Figure small Orion, crew of 4 or large Orion, crew of 8, 6 small Orion & 6 Landers (12 pilots - 12 others specialists of which 6 are also pilots, 1 per lander. All crew members would have to have a least 2 or 3 specialist training to cover all needs until there are enough colonists planet side) The 2nd flight would be just as staffed. The landers would be added to the infrastructure in some way needed. With the 8 crew Orion spacecraft you could get more on the surface. The more planet side the better the chance for success. 2 pilots to return Orion are needed. 50/50 sex split is also needed, married or close friends. The saying, "The devil is in the details" applies but that can be worked out.

KateMorlie: 04/23/2013 12:08 CDT

This conversation supports the contention that all studies converge at the top: math, philosophy, biology, ...

William C: 04/23/2013 12:19 CDT

@ Leonidas Papadopoulos: 2001: Point taken : ) I suppose I should clarify my stance though. I don't actually think their plan would work, and I agree completely that it trivializes human space flight. The problem is that right now, most humans are fully immersed in absolutely nothing but the trivial. I don't think that they will make it as far as getting of the planet and having their reality show in space, what I hope is that between then and when they fade away there may be moments of hype that will, even if only a little, trickle down levels of awareness and create a spark of interest no matter how small. We really need the whole human race on board (so to speak) if we are ever going to make the big push. I suppose I am suggesting manipulative psychology to which I say: Welcome to Earth : P - I fully admit that my stance on this may be completely wrong, but we will soon see. My hope is that one day human spaceflight will be completely trivial--because it will be common and accessible. You could also argue that the respected and legitimate space companies who are promising trips to the edge space including space hotels in just a few short years is just hype. It sounds dubious but it has been well sensationalized and consequently you can find people of all walks who at the very lease think it's "cool". They played that card well. So yes, I support trivializing human spaceflight, but in a strongly demographically targeted and crafty way. I watched the news conference. I found it interesting that all panel members took the time to admit that even they recognize their plan could fall apart at any stage, some seemed to think it was even likely to fail -- but they are aiming for it regardless to see where (if) it fails. BTW - I'm a bit embarrassed about all the typos in my posts. I'm always in a hurry and I have way to much to say sometimes.

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/23/2013 01:14 CDT

@William C: I really appreciate your views towards space travel. I'm a strong advocate myself also! And all the justification you menioned for it, is really valid! These are my personal views as well! I'm really really excited with the Inspiration Mars plan. It's not guarranteed either, but it has infinitely more chances of success than reality TV on Mars! And I really think Dennis Tito is making it for the right reasons as well. What a better way to inspire! He's being both modest and bold with his plan. Now, that's a plan I'd personally would want to sign my name under!

LifeLover: 04/23/2013 01:35 CDT

I withdraw my worries concerning the precision landing issue, after having seen this. Anything seems possible to rocket scientists, the sergeons of heaven: William C, yes my handle here is chosen for fun. Humans have indeed spread, but nature has made them/us avoid Antarctica completely. Although it's much more hospitable than any place on Mars. That's evolution: Don't go there! It's tried and died... The voluntary Mars graveyard project. I think, that Mr. Columbus and his sailors would've been happier if they could've stayed at home and remotely controlled a robot sailing ship to discover 'India', with a lunch break, instead of almost starving to death on the Atlantic. Finally, I think that the greatest threat to our existance is a gamma ray burst (GRB). I don't worry too much, but about 400 million years ago or so, all life on Earth died at once, except deep sea-stuff, I've read. Could've been a GRB event. Moon or Mars would be no better off.

Emily Lakdawalla: 04/23/2013 02:56 CDT

I don't know if these are the guys who are going to do it, but I predict that the first human mission to Mars is going to look something like this one. NASA is too risk-averse and too unable to plan for the long term ever to try. Maybe China will manage to do it. But a less-funded, riskier, private company is my bet for the ones who will succeed....or die trying. I agreed to host the briefing for Mars One because they are passionate and are concerned about the right things and have the right kinds of partners. If they fail (and they probably will), it will most likely be because they don't raise enough money. I am very happy to see the public vote on whether this is a good idea or not with their wallets. I would rather, of course, have people give that money to The Planetary Society. But it's not my place to choose how other people are to spend their money. If people don't find our message inspiring and they are inspired by Mars One, let them put their money where their passions are. In case you missed it in the press briefing, if Mars One does fail before it ever launches a spacecraft, they plan to transfer any leftover money to like-minded nonprofit organizations, one of which is The Planetary Society. So I guess The Planetary Society actually has a finanicial interest in them failing. I don't care. I do not plan to apply. Like many of you commenting here, I don't feel the need to export humans and our problems into space, and I am happier to see new worlds through robots' eyes than to have the more limited viewpoint on a few humans eking out an existence on Mars. But just because that's what I think, doesn't mean everyone else should think the same, and I hear and understand many people who find inspiration in this program and who are ready to sign up for the trip. Who am I to say they are wrong to feel so inspired?

Jan Friberg: 04/25/2013 04:12 CDT

Why have the comments here been removed ?

Emily Lakdawalla: 04/26/2013 03:40 CDT

I have no idea how the comments got removed, but I went in and re-approved them, so they're back. Sorry about that and thanks for pointing it out!

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/26/2013 09:00 CDT

Emily, I appreciate your views on this and your post. My problem with MarsOne (and that's just my personal opinion) is that I feel they're trivialising the whole thing. Also IMHO, I find it immoral to a certain degree. It's like saying 'go to Mars and probably die, and it's OK, as long as we keep our revenues and the bucks keep pouring in and until the TV public likes it'. I understand and sympathise with the public's enthousiasm over this. I'm a really strong advocate myself of human spaceflight and expansion into the cosmos. I also happen to strongly disagree with your point of view that 'just robots and no humans in space are OK', but I respect it. So, IMHO again, I think that MarsOne is sending the wrong message to the public about human spaceflight and that doesn't do the real space endeavour any favours. I don't think that the public has realised what the reality of manned Mars missions would be. And it won't be reality-TV-like. And MarsOne of course isn't communicating that for obvious reasons. The public that digs space exploration feels fed up with 40+ years of coasting on LEO, and is ready to embrace anyone who promises something spectacular beyond that without thinking critically about it for a second. And there's so much dillusional thinking going on about this, that people seem to be living in fantasy land and sayin 'oh, we'll be on Mars in 10 years'. Ian O'Neil has written a really good article on Discovery space news recently about the faults in MarsOnes' plans and it's an interesting read. And concerning your comment about NASA being risk-averse today, you're right to a degree. But this is not just about NASA, but it's about our civilisation as a whole. It's our culture today as a nation and as a world, to be risk-averse and NASA is just part of that. The US went to the moon in the '60s and '70s, but today it isn't the nation that it was then (and so is the rest of the world). In my opinion, it's less, but that's another subject altogether.

Bob Ware: 04/26/2013 11:25 CDT

Mars is doable but the better plan is the FULL Robert Zubrin plan. (The Mars Society) Should we do his plan? I say yes but the majority (or the the loud minority) will decide. Should Mars One try? Of course but ...

Jan Friberg: 04/27/2013 05:48 CDT

I disagree over the opinion that this a joke and to turn space exploration into a circus. It's a difficult task and a big risk of failure. But they have answered some of the criticism here. Regarding people losing interest in the moon landings. They have stated they are going to concentrate the TV reality show on the persons involved rather than space exploration per see. Regarding the view that this is never going to succeed (so lets distance us from it) What about The SETI project ? Sending a disc and plaque on board the Voyager probe with the idea to tell some aliens about us if they would come across it?

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/27/2013 07:43 CDT

@Jan: Jan, I don't find that the people behind MarOne have answered anything really. They have just made big unverified assumptions. I'm not a rocket scientist or engineer, but I suspect that virtually any sensible rocket engineer would tell you, that there are two goals when designing a mission: a)mission success and b)crew safety. As Bob Ware rightly pointed out in a post above, when you design a mission to jump start a Mars colony with only 4 people, you are severely compromising both goals. Would any engineer in their right mind ever want to do that? Someone would say that based on the MarsOne plan, more launches would follow, to help establish the colony. But since the whole project is based on such highly hypothetical and far from certain revenues of funding, how can anyone be so sure of that? And my question is, if the Apollo missions were based on funding and revenue like the one MarsOne proposes, what would be the fate of any lunar mission after Apollo 11? They say that this is not the same thing. I don't think how it's any different at all. And the biggest offender (besides the whole reality TV concept) IMHO, are their cost estimates. 6 billion for the first mission? Really???! Go tell that to Robert Zubrin, who is a real rocket engineer, designing concepts for Mars missions for over 20 years. Even his own Mars Direct plan, which is a hugely spartan and minimalistic concept in terms of cost and provisions, he calculated it to cost at least 6 times more than MarOne's plan! Didn't anyone inform the MarsOne folks about the countless of past Mars mission concepts and cost estimates made the last 40 years? So, either the guys behind MarsOne are either clueless, so you can call them ignorant, or they are not, in which case you can call them dishonest. There are ways of course to bring costs down, as the space private sector in the US has recently demonstrated, but low-Earth orbit and Mars are two vastly different things. From a point on, there is no cheap.

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/27/2013 08:06 CDT

(I make a second post because of the 1000 characters limitation/post). Do you think any of the people that sign up for the mission really know about the real estimated costs involved for any Mars mission to have a real chance of success? It's a vastly different thing, going on on a mission like lets say Mars Direct (since I brought it up) or another like it, knowing that no matter what, there's a dedicated mission control behind you and that second launch with crews and supplies will, no matter what, come, because the funding for it has already been allocated, so you have at least real chances of succeding and it's a vastly different thing, going on a mission like MarsOne's, where you're basically on your own, and that second mission might never come, probably because the funding might not be reached. So, MarsOne IMHO basically says (and that's why I have huge moral concerns over it): 'sign up for the mission and go, and if the funding keeps coming in, we'll send you more crew and provisions in the future. If not...well, sorry, R.I.P. !'.

Paul McCarthy: 04/27/2013 11:07 CDT

What about the point that I tried to make earlier, albeit not very clearly no doubt: Is it the case that any half-baked, one-way, bare-survival-mode human habitation, may well preclude any serious or dramatic terra-forming efforts on Mars, simply because of the presence of human lives, while yielding no benefits whatsoever to humankind? Terraforming is the only plausible(?) way to ever make Mars a more inviting goal (from numerous points of view), so to possibly rule it out, by developing a struggling, otherwise pointless, community of say 100 non-evacuateable adults and infants, seems reckless without proper investigation and assessment of all options.

Zorbonian: 04/28/2013 03:51 CDT

Ah yes. . . welcome to the dark side of capitalism. . .

Zorbonian: 04/28/2013 04:04 CDT

But I fully agree with Bob Ware and the Robert Zubrin plan. He even addresses artificial gravity in a realistic and practical manner.

Leonidas Papadopoulos: 04/28/2013 06:53 CDT

@Zorbonian: Yes, I agree too! But, that's exactly the point! If you gonna go for Zubrin's plan or what Bob Ware proposes, so that you can have real chances for a succesful mission, the cost for your first launch won't be just 6 billion dollars! So, if you're making a cost estimate like this, you either don't have a clue about how to design a realistic Mars mission, or you're not being truthful. How much of the general public outside the space community and the folks that sign up dor MarsOne has ever studied past Mars mission concepts and cost estimates so that they can have an idea? Because that's not a video game simulation they're proposing doing. It's Mars colonisation and their very lives for crying out loud. And two last points come in mind: a) when they realise that costs will have to rise above 6 billion in the process, how are they gonna sell that to TV executives whose funding they want? And if you wanna stick to your initial cost estimates, and do things 'cheap', how much of crew safety are you willing to compromise? NASA also tried to do 'faster better, cheaper' in the '90's and lost two robotic Mars missions in a row, because of this. And if a private effort faces a huge cost rise, will anyone still grin when goverment space agencies face similar things? and b) I really don't want to be a bringer of doom and a prophet of disaster, but if a mission like MarsOne launches and things get screwed in the process because of 'cheap', what will that do the rest of Mars exploration? Will the public and the politicians get the idea that Mars missions are impossible and the whole thing get abandoded?

Jan Friberg: 04/29/2013 01:15 CDT

I would think that if they get so far as to send the first four people to Mars then their business model is working. Regarding Zubrins plan (I have read his book) my understanding is that it includes a return trip and development of a nuclear power reactor. Things that significantly raises the price. MO intend to use the falcon heavy rocket which will make space launches more cheap from what I have heard. Also MO is admitting that it's a estimate and it can get more expensive. And regarding the risk to be stranded on Mars I'm quite sure the crews are being fully informed about that risk. The same applied for the Apollo astronauts and from what I have understood the risk for them could not be considered particularly low. I have heard figures of 1 to 3 risks.

Peter Jacobs: 08/14/2014 12:41 CDT

It is often mentioned, that Mars settlements involve a one-way trip. What has not been raised is that this necessitates introduction of the Death Penalty, for crimes harmful to the settlement and possibly, for settlers who may become non-contributory due to age, illness or injury.

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