Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mars One is a Made-for-TV Hoax

Mars One is a bunch of dreamers who want to set up a colony on Mars. They have just announced their competition for future astronauts, which you can join by sending a one-minute video explaining why you want to go on a one-way trip to Mars. They will then begin training and weeding out the contestants, I mean astronauts, via the ultimate reality TV show:
Mars One estimates that it needs $6 billion to send the first four astronauts to Mars. This money will cover developing the landing systems, habitats, Mars Transit Vehicle (MTV), rovers, solar arrays and other technologies associated with the colony, as well as pay for the crew's journey from Earth.

Every subsequent crew trip would cost $4 billion, Lansdorp told SPACE.com. Just sending a supply lander would cost $250 million. Mars One plans to raise this money largely through a global reality television series that will follow the colonization effort from astronaut selection to the first landing and the settlement’s expansion.

The audience will vote for who gets to go to Mars from a pool of candidates selected by Mars One’s experts. Lansdorp points to the 2012 London Olympics and the $4 billion it generated from television revenues over its three weeks as evidence that such a funding plan can work.
Their goal is to put people on Mars by 2023. Would anybody like to take a bet that this won't happen? I'll give ten to one odds.

I especially like the way they have estimated the cost of the mission without having a design for the spacecraft. Please.

But, hey, why not a televised competition for astronauts? Makes more sense than choosing a spouse that way.


LookNoHands said...

Hmmm.... you might want to check your facts. They've already released fairly detailed plans including indentification of the proposed transit and lander vehicles (Admittedly they are probably "candidate vehicles" rather than something set in stone.) I believe they are SpaceX and Thales Alenia vehicles which have already been engineered, developed, and have been accepted by a good portion of the scientific community as serious candidates for successful transportation for such types of missions. It doesn't seem at all unreasonable to assume that after all the testing that has been done that with highly detailed plans and specs, a reasonable cost estimate has been already made. That said, securing funding for such a project seems like a potentially impossible task for anything less than the national government of a first world nation or one of the world's largest corporations/most independently wealthy organizations.

John said...

The launch vehicles you mention are nowhere nearly adequate to launch a large spacecraft toward Mars, and their spaceship plans are not detailed enough for anyone to estimate to what they would cost, or say if they would really work.

John said...

From Physics Focus:

There are a lot of reasons to view the Mars One project as insane.

Let’s start with the technology. The team behind the mission claims that the mission is feasible with existing hardware. That may be true, but “existing” does not necessarily mean flight ready, let alone suitable for a manned mission. Only the Russian Soyuz is currently able to take humans into space, and that’s not a spacecraft equipped to land on Mars. And the landing is another issue. Mars One says it will use retrorocket (rockets that fire to slow the spacecraft for a soft touchdown) and no parachute to land its crew on Mars. That’s a method that’s never been done. NASA’s Viking landers use retrorockets, but they also used a parachute in the early stage of their descent and weighed far less than a manned spacecraft. I can only imagine how much the fuel for a powered descent would weigh for a spacecraft not taking advantage of a parachute-assisted descent. . . .

The other key piece of the mission the Mars One team skirted over at Monday’s press conference is funding. The first manned mission, they said, will cost six billion US dollars. They didn’t say whether that figure includes research and development or any of the early cargo missions, nor did they say what levels of funding they have secured. They only said that they will raise the money for the mission by broadcasting the whole process on TV. . . . The problem with the reality TV funding model is that the money will come after the mission has started, not before, which is when missions like this really need money. Mars One didn’t say anything about how they will deal with cost overruns, which are inevitable with an undertaking of this magnitude. The problem with the 2016 launch is that Mars One hasn’t said who will be providing the spacecraft and rocket, and the launch date is really close on the horizon. As far as we know, none of the hardware has been tested either on Earth or on Mars. If the first mission will launch in three years, Mars One need to start landing tests tomorrow.

John said...

Wired gave this plan a plausibility score of 2 out of 10; their experts said the plan would cost closer to a trillion dollars than six billion.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with John. Though I wish it was feasible, it just is not. When you think that the entire Lunar Project cost apporx: 200 Billion in todays dollars. Indeed, that is from 1957 thru 1973. $200 Billion to go to the moon. Mars, to have a habitat supporting mutiple humans, is going to be near, again approx:, $300 to 400 billion . Good luck guys, but I would not send them any of my money for them to have a nice new Bugatti Veyron. But as PT Barnum said, theres a sucker born every minute.