Earlier this week, a colonist candidate for the one-way mission to Mars broke his silence and spoke out against the Mars One project, calling the selection process dangerously flawed.
After filling out an application (mostly out of curiosity), former NASA researcher Joseph Roche, now of Trinity College, became one of 100 finalists to live in permanent settlement on Mars. In his interview with Elmo Keep for Medium, Roche expressed many concerns, ranging from inaccurate media coverage (there were only 2,761 applicants, not 200,000) to Mars One’s psychological or psychometric testing (or lack thereof) to how leading contenders earned their spot (he says they paid for it).
“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explains. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.” And if media outlets offer payment for an interview, the organization would like to see 75 percent of the profit. As a result the most high-profile hopefuls, he says, are those who brought about the most money.
So far, he’s completed a questionnaire, uploaded a video, got a medical exam, took a quick quiz over Skype, and… not too much else, it seems. Despite making the final 100, Roche has never met anyone from Mars One in person. A planned multiday, regional interview seems to have been cancelled.
There are other bad signs for Mars One. The organization’s contract with production company Endemol is no longer in place; Mars One was hoping to generate $6 billion from a reality show. And a former adviser to the project, theoretical physicist Gerard Hooft, said a realistic launch date isn’t 10 years from now -- it’s 100 years.
Now, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has responded in a video [transcript], where he says a lot of the bad press is untrue. “There are a lot of current round three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One and there are also lot of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One,” he says. “The two things are not related at all and to say that they are is simply a lie.”
Lansdorp maintains that there were indeed 200,000 applications, and that criticism by the organization’s advisers is valued because it helps improve their mission. Their next step, he says, is to find out which of the candidates “have what it takes” through more thorough selection processes, team and individual challenges, and longer interviews. They’re also in talks with another production company. And as far as the delays are concerned, he says, “is it really a failure if we land our first crew two, four, six, or even eight years late?”