By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education
Bas Lansdorp has announced the selection of the first Mars One candidate pool, selected from over 200,000 applicants. The final four will come from a pool of 1,058 people chosen through a process involving “rigorous simulations, many in team settings, with focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities of our remaining candidates.”
While the announcement says that over 200,000 applied, it’s unclear that all of those paid the fee and submitted the video. The criteria for selection are given at the site, but few can readily be applied to applicants, many of whom may have lied on their applications.
Only three criteria are quantitatively measurable: 100% visual acuity (correction with lenses allowed), blood pressure below 140/90, and standing height between 157 and 190 cm. (Note: I’m ineligible with a height of 190.5 cm even though I meet the other two criteria here.) Some others are qualitatively measurable: free from drug, alcohol, or tobacco dependency, normal range of motion in all joints, and disease free.
There are some interesting statistics in their announcement. The pool has 44.6% women. The oldest person is age 81 and will be 92 at the estimated time of manned launch. The largest age group is 26-35 at 39% with 18-25 having 34%. The United States has by far the largest number in the pool at 28% with Canada coming in second at 7%. These are followed, in order, by India, Russia, Australia, China, Great Britain, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, France, and Mexico. In all, 107 countries are represented, 30 with a single person being accepted for round two and 24 with two. This list may be heavily biased by the requirement of English fluency, by the population size, and by the relative wealth of the countries.
This announcement may help to boost the Mars One crowdsourcing campaign, which started off with $80,000 of its target $400,000 in the first couple of hours after the announcement but faltered afterward and now stands at just over $100,000 with 27 days left. This money is intended to support studies of launch and landing vehicles for what the Mars One people call the first private Mars lander ever. Without it, the schedule may slip until the entire project is canceled.
Right now, the most important aspect of Mars One is the appearance of viability. As long as they can maintain a reasonable level of likelihood of success, they will be able to continue to raise money. The announcement of the first round of applicant winnowing makes them appear more real. The costs of the second round will not be terribly great, certainly much less than those of designing the system for launching and landing the first private Mars lander and far, far below those of actually launching this system.
Mars One has assembled a group of people with great credentials as advisors. They have accomplished the first round selection process and have signed on the companies for the study of the Mars lander. They have stepped up, but it’s a modest step. Nothing concrete will come of any of these pieces of their first step, and they have fallen far short of their funding goals. Can they step up again to a higher level? Can they sell, at $50 apiece, the remaining 190 out of 200 “Limited Edition Hoodies”? Get yours now! In 27 days, they will no longer be available — or will they? Further funding efforts must follow, and there’s no reason to assume that more souvenirs and perks won’t be offered.
Unfortunately for them, Mars One is in a chicken-and-egg situation. They must have more funding to succeed, but they must demonstrate success to get more funding. To mix metaphors, it looks as though they have to prime the pump more before they can lift themselves up by their bootstraps.
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