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By Jason Offutt
The deal sounds pretty good.
For an application fee of $38 I can join roughly 80,000 people from around the world in a chance to fly to the planet Mars. It costs more than $200 to fly to Chicago, and that’s just in Illinois. Mars is at least twice that far.
The entrepreneurial Dutch space company Mars One is looking for anyone with enough money to buy a gallon of cheap whiskey to apply for the chance to be an astronaut. This sounds great, except for the fact that the people picked are never coming home.
Mars One plans to use existing technology (I think they mean iPads with Angry Birds) to send equipment and supplies to the Red Planet in October 2016, a rover in 2018, and the first group of four settlers (two men, two women) by 2022.
The second settlers will reach our nearest planetary neighbor by 2025, if the first group doesn’t, you know, die, which is a distinct possibility. Mars One is, after all, a private company doing something a lot of scientists say is impossible. And they’re Dutch, famous for windmills and wooden clogs.
Given the danger of the venture and the fact that these “astronauts” may never taste bacon again, why would anyone want to embark on a one-way trip to a planet with an unbreathable atmosphere, an average temperature of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit and no bratwurst? Oh, and it’s 48.6 million miles from the nearest QuikTrip.
Let’s hear from the applicants:
Catherine, 20, United States: “The reason I know that I want to go to Mars is that every night when I look up at the stars and see them and dream about them I want to go to another planet.”
Cody, 19, Canada: “Ever since I was a kid I stayed up late and stared at the stars and wondered if anyone else was out there. So the chance to go to Mars and do experiments and find out if there was previous life on Mars. That would be huge for me.”
Martijn, 38, The Netherlands: “The reason I want to go to Mars is because I think it is the greatest adventure one can imagine. It would be such an honor to stand as humankind on another planet and live out the rest of my life finding out new things learning new stuff. I can’t imagine a bigger bonus in life.”
I don’t know about you, but I think scientists would be the type of astronaut recruit I’d want to “do experiments” and learn “new stuff.”
Of course, the company plans to finance the Mars project by making it into a reality TV show. So now the $38 video selection process to be the first humans on an alien world kind of makes sense.
Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has already addressed sex (it’s not encouraged, but you never know. Ratings, cough, cough), and death.
“It’s up to the people on Mars to decide what to do with their dead,” he said.
Since the menu on a Mars colony would probably consist of powdered eggs and local dirt, I’m guessing Donner Pass (cough, cough).
Am I going to fill out an application? Nah. I’ll probably take my $38 and buy that whiskey instead.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.