Mars One, the company planning to send people on a one-way trip to Mars, has been battered with criticism in the past couple months.
The most recent example is a blistering story written by Elmo Keep and published in the online magazine Matter earlier this week after Mars One finalist Josh Roche came forward to reveal some of the concerns he had with the company’s selection process for its Mars colonizers.
The story called into question how many people originally applied to be one of the astronauts to settle on Mars and never return, the way the company selected its “Mars 100” finalists, and whether or not any of these 100 finalists have what it takes.
Co-founder and CEO of Mars One Bas Lansdorp released a video interview today addressing those points.
“At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission,” Lansdorp says at the beginning of the interview. And that’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of it:
According to Roche, as soon as anyone applied to be a Mars One astronaut, they were automatically enrolled in Mars One Community where they could start earning points by buying Mars One merchandise or donating money to the company. The article published in Matter implied that the top candidates announced in February were just the candidates that had donated the most money to Mars One.
Lansdorp said this isn’t true:
That is simply not true and this is very easy to find that on our website. 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. The two things are not related at all and to say that they are is simply a lie.
The Matter article also confidently stated that the company only received 2,761 applications compared to its reported 200,000 applications. The controversy around this number is not new. The Guardian reported 80,000. Keep wrote in an earlier Mars One story that NBC News counted up the number of applications on the Mars One website and found only 2,761. NBC News has apparently now taken down that story.
Here’s what Lansdorp had to say about the number of applications:
The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.
Roche, the Mars One finalist who decided to speak out, also raised questions about how the company was assessing its candidates.
Setting up a colony on Mars will require physical fitness and a lot of psychological stamina, and Roche was doubtful that Mars One was responsibly choosing candidates.
“[A]ll the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche wrote to Keep in an email. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”
Lansdorp said now that the pool of (apparently) 200,000 applicants is narrowed down to a top 100, the evaluation process will get much more intense:
The selection process will be much more thorough from here on. We will bring our candidates together, we will put them through team and individual challenges, there will be much longer interviews, and there will be much a bigger selection committee. This is the way we will determine who are good enough to enter our training process.
He did not offer any more details on what the training would be like or when it will begin.
Lansdorp also still stands by the company’s proposed $US6 billion budget to pull off all of this. NASA has estimated around $US80 billion to $US100 billion for a manned mission to Mars, but Lansdorp says the most complicated part is budgeting and preparing for the return trip — a trip Mars One is not planning.
Despite only having reported raising about 0.01% of that $US6 billion, Lansdorp is still optimistic about the company’s finances. Last year closed out a successful round of investment, Lansdorp said, but the processing of those investments is taking a while:
Unfortunately, the paper work of that deal is taking much longer than we expected. I now think that it will be completed before the summer of this year, which means that we will not be in time to finance the follow up studies that Lockheed Martin needs to do for our first unmanned mission in 2018. This unfortunately means that we will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027.
So the mission is officially delayed two years.
You can watch the full interview with Lansdorp below:
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