mugMars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp put himself up on Reddit on one of their “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) threads. The idea is Reddit members post questions and Bas answers them. They’re very common on Reddit and usually are full of fans probing for some inside information, thanking the guest, praising the product and generally giving the subject excellent exposure. Things didn’t go that way for poor Bas. I read through the top 200 (yes 200) comments and couldn’t find a single one in support of Mars One. The tone was was extremely hostile and the recurring theme was that Mars One was a scam.

You can look at the thread on Reddit here, but here’s a sample of the top few comments:

From mitravelus:
There is no way for you to do this safely, or even feasibly. These contracts you keep touting about aren’t fucking contracts, no one of any repute supports you, and anyone in ay of the fields you need to make this happen say it’s not feasible.. Fuck you and your entire organization for exploiting the dreams of those who give anything to go there.

From garblegarble12:
Looking at other space companies, Virgin Galactic is backed by billionaire transport/retail tycoon Richard Branson, Space X is backed by billionaire and established tech genius Elon Musk, can someone please remind me what qualifications and past achievements Bas lansdorp brings to the table with mars one From what I can see Bas Lansdorp hasn’t achieved anything in the real world. Mars One is a scam.

And from remarkless:
Fuck this guys treachery, deceit and fraud. While global private front-runners is seemingly the next required step in space exploration, playing off the heartstrings of space lovers and the sensationalism of the potential headlines is a shit thing to do to fraud people out of $400k in a shit indiegogo campaign. You have contributed absolutely nothing to the discussion, let alone the advancement of space technologies and space exploration. MarsOne has added nothing to the discourse except PR bullshit. Your ‘road map’ is laughable but not nearly as laughable as your cost estimate of $6B. The Apollo program ran $23.9B ($47.15B 2013 UDS if adjusted for inflation). While technology has become cheaper, the development challenges are far from inexpensive.
I found this especially ridiculous:
Mars One has visited several major aerospace companies around the world to discuss its plan, and the hardware components that are needed to implement the plan. For each component, Mars One has found at least one potential supplier.
You and your ‘foundation’ have contributed nothing to the discourse. I hope this can be shown for the undeliverable fraud that it is.

And on and on it went for hundreds of comments. Poor Bas must have been overwhelmed byt he negative posts because he hardly answered a single question and when he did it was just just lightweight blather. Seems that Bas and the Mars One concept is not getting much positive traction among the space lovers.

But what of the contracts mars One announced in late 2013? In their press release they said:
“Mars One has secured lead suppliers for its first mission to Mars. The mission, slated for a 2018 launch, will include a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Mars One has contracted Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop mission concept studies. The Mars lander will be built by Lockheed Martin and the communications satellite will be built by SSTL.”

Co-founder Arno Wielders managed to sound quite upbeat:
“With our 2018 missions, Mars One brings the settlement of Mars one step closer to reality. The demonstration of water production on Mars is crucial for manned missions. The live video feed from the surface camera will bring Mars closer to people on Earth. And with the STEM education challenges and university competitions planned on our lander, we will enthuse a whole new generation for Mars exploration, even before our first crew lands.”

You can’t fault Mars One for their ideals but is the gamble starting to unravel? The schedule was recently pushed back by two years, and unless some major sponsors come onboard soon it’s hard to see where the money will come from to pay for even a modest launch. Crowdfunding a few hundred thousand dollars may be a huge success for an iPhone app developer, but it’s not going to pay for the office costs for Mars One, let alone get anything off the planet. Their current funding drive stands at just $120,000.

The Mars One FAQ on funding has a few interesting clues. One is their hope to derive funding from “high net worth individuals” – in other words rich people willing to lay out cash. Elon Musk immediately comes to mind but even Musk hasn’t got the cash flow to finance a Mars colony, and with the project starting to look shaky, would now be the time to join?

The science behind the proposal has received good and bad news lately. The bad news is improved data on radiation exposure as shown in this chart from NASA:
radiation

Of course Mars One have an answer for that too:
“The Mars One habitat will be covered by several meters of soil, which provides reliable shielding even against galactic cosmic rays. Five meters of soil provides the same protection as the Earth’s atmosphere– equivalent to 1,000 g/cm2 of shielding.”
Hmmm, living in a can buried under frozen dirt. It’s beginning to sound like a punishment cell in a Siberian gulag.

The good news? Increased evidence for flowing water on the surface. Here’s a gif from JPL:
pia17606-440

So, is Mars One a scam? My own view is that the project has been started in good faith and given enough funding it could succeed. And that’s the crucial point: without billions of dollars (and soon) there will be no survey missions, no astronaut training and no liftoff.

It might all end sounding frightening similar to the Google April Fool’s day joke of 2008: the “Virgle” Mars base.

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