Maggie Lieu, 23, is one of the Britons hoping to be accepted on to the Mars One project. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer Karen Robinson/Observer
project hasn't had an easy ride. Critics have questioned all aspects, from the technical feasibility to its funding model. But recent developments from the project seem to be bringing the goal of starting a human colony on Mars by 2025 a little closer.
Last month, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the project's founder, announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin, the same company that is contracted by Nasa to build the Orion spacecraft, and Surrey Satellite Technology to build a satellite to put into orbit around Mars by 2018. This was a strong statement of intent for the project, which aims to send four volunteers on a one-way ticket every 26 months to spend the rest of their lives on the red planet.
Assuming they can overcome some of the not insignifcant technical issues – such as minimising the radiation exposure the astronauts experience and landing a heavy manned craft safely on the surface – the main issue faced by the project seems to be one of funding. Mars One aims to raise the majority of its estimated $6bn costs by selling television rights and sponsorship deals.
Using as a model the Olympics, which made about $8bn between 2009 and 2011 through broadcast, sponsorship and ticketing deals, Mars One claims that with an estimated 4 billion people expected to have access to video media within a decade, this sum could be easily surpassed if everyone was watching. The mission recently launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, offering Mars Orbit selfies and VIP tours in return for financial support – although at the time of writing it was less than halfway towards its $400, 000 target.
While he thinks we should be seeing people land on Mars by 2035, the second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, is very sceptical about the timings given by the Mars One project. He says: "I don't think there's that much technology that indicates that the Mars One corporation, with over 150, 000 people applying, really knows how to get four people to Mars by 2023 [sic], even if they don't bring them back."
He said that while he believes private corporations do have an important role to play in space exploration, something as monumental as sending people to Mars will be achieved only through international co-operation.
So where next for the project? Mars One recently announced that, after receiving more than 200, 000 applications from more than 140 countries during phase one of selection, it has cut the applicant pool by 99.5% to 1, 058 candidates who will go through to phase two.
What these applicants (who include the three below) will have to undergo in round two has not yet been agreed, as the project is currently in negotiations with media companies for the right to televise the selection process.Maggie Lieu, 23, is one of the Britons hoping to be accepted on to the Mars One project. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer Karen Robinson/Observer
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