Remember the movie Apollo 13? Specifically, how the public had grown bored with moon landings, and the mission only really got notice because of the accident? That film could be used as a potent metaphor for space exploration in general the past few decades. We only seem to take notice when something goes horribly wrong, like in the case of the Challenger and Columbia accidents.
There was a time when NASA’s mission was THE headline. Every bold leap forward for science was front page news. That time seems to be sadly past though.
A non-profit in the Netherlands thinks they have a way of combating that audience fatigue with their new venture, Mars One. The plan is to permanently land four human colonists on Mars, with the mission launching as early as 2026. To fund the expedition, the project lead Bas Landorp has proposed turning it into a reality TV show starring real-life astronauts instead of celebutantes.
Many have criticized the plan, both technically and ethically. Few scientists and engineers believe their timetable or technical plans are sound. Worse still is the guarantee that it is a one-way trip. The crew of Mars One (which will be selected from a group of contest-winning volunteers) would, with 100% certainty, die on the Martian surface, if they could make it there in the first place. An analysis of the environmental plans conducted by MIT students suggests that the environmental system would fail within 68 days of landing on the surface, dooming the colonists. Some astronauts and aerospace engineers have even gone so far as to call the program a scam.
That being said, public interest is a major factor in pushing space exploration further, both in guaranteeing financing and showing the force of will to make it happen. It’s as true now as it was in the 1960s. Perhaps there is the kernel of an idea Mars One, beneath the bad planning and the gaudy reality show trappings.
Keeping people interested and involved is a great idea. Perhaps an interactive web community with vlogs from the colonists as well as an ability to interact with them via message board?
Keith is a freelance writer at Black Powder Design and a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in animation. Keith hosts a podcast on the Deliberate Noise Network titled The Keith Show Show starring Keith. He is also the illustrator and writer of his own comic series called Stale Popcorn.