Mars One, the controversial reality TV-funded project to send people on a one-way trip to Mars, has narrowed down its “astronaut selection process” to the last 100 candidates – a tiny number compared to the 200,000 who originally applied.
The 100 that remain will now go through exercises to test how they might function in the small settlement planned for the trip, focusing on their interpersonal skills – important when stranded on the Red Planet with just three other people.
Amongst the final 100, reduced from the 660 in the previous round, there is an even gender split with 50 women and 50 men, 39 are American, with 31 Europeans, 16 people from Asia, 7 from Africa and 7 from Oceania in the lineup.
Despite Mars One’s insistence that there were official requirements for applicants, the majority of the final 100 have been through higher education – four fifths of those selected have a degree, 30 of whom have been awarded masters degree.
Bas Lansdorp, the co-founder and CEO of Mars One said: “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars. These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”
Mars One, the controversial reality TV
Mars One is partly to be funded by selling the rights to a reality TV show about the prospective astronauts’ training in the run up to the manned launches, the first of which is currently scheduled for 2024, although this has been postponed several times already.
Alison Rigby, a 35-year-old scientist from London is one of the successful candidates who passed the third round. She says that she plans to continue with her normal life for the coming few months but believes the remaining applicants might have to partake in simulation tests in the future.
Asked why she thought herself and the 99 others made the cut, she emphasises that their education does seem to have been taken into consideration: “I guess from [Mars One’s] choices it indicates that they’ve chosen people who have a certain mindset – people who have been in higher education, and are better at assimilating information,” she says.
Rigby also makes it clear that she’s approached the mission with her eyes open: “I’m a scientist and a sceptic so I’ve always questioned the mission. If something doesn’t ring true, I’ll question it and so far all my questions have been answered.”
“My input so far has just been to fulfill the requirement of the selection process and to try and tell people about space, so really it’s no skin off my nose.”
However, not everyone is happy with the selection. Melissa Ede a transgender taxi driver from Hull, England did not get through to the final 100 and believes she only got through the preliminary stages due to the press coverage she attracted to the mission.
“It’s been a shock to everyone. I think they’ve made a big mistake because the people they’ve chosen are all PhD graduates or doctors, so in terms of the reality TV show these people haven’t really lived life.”
She was not able to correctly answer all three of the questions the candidates were tested on for the third round, and she feels somewhat jaded by the process. “I feel quite let down by it all – I’ve given them so much. I got involved every way possible and even had the Mars One logo tattooed on my arm. They used my life to promote their project.”
Mars One is viewed with scepticism and unease by some in the field of space travel. Chris Hadfield, the well-known and experienced Canadian astronaut warned in December that had serious doubts about the legitimacy of the project. “I really counsel every single one of the people who is interested in Mars One, whenever they ask me about it, to start asking the hard questions now,” he said.