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Mars One finalist raises alarming concerns; reveals some startling details

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Mars One has been making the headlines of the science section of almost every major paper for its ‘overarching’ goal of setting up a human colony on Mars just 10 years from now at a fraction of the cost estimated by establishes space agencies like NASA. However, at least one applicant who has made it to the round 3 of the astronaut selection process isn’t sure about the project’s ability to deliver.

Dr Joseph Roche, one of the 100 shortlisted candidates for the one way trip to Mars has come out voicing concerns about the project and its ambitions while also making some startling claims about the selection process and the funding scheme of the company.

Elmo Keep has penned an article on Medium wherein he is revealed all his findings about the Mars One project with a key question that raises concerns on the feasibility of the project. As a part of the piece, he interviewed Dr Roche wherein he was quoted as saying, “I have not met anyone from Mars One in person.”

Roche said that the guys at Mars One had been saying that there will be regional interviews with tests that will last for days, however, that didn’t turn out to be the case as the selection process at the end turned out to be only a 10-minute Skype call.

He further added that he isn’t aware of any candidate who has sat a face-to-face interview to assess their suitability for any deep-space mission. Keep notes that the process is no way near NASA’s stringent astronaut corps requirements.

“That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers,” (in addition to the Skype video call that didn’t include any rigorous psychological or psychometric testing). That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything,” Roche says.

Keep, in his post, cites a report by NBC News that the number of video applicants was just 2,782 and not 200,000. To confirm these findings Keep asked Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp whether this was correct and in reply, the CEO gave quite an unclear answer.

Lansdorp said that they had designed the application process such that people themselves will end up relinquishing their candidacy. He said that 200,000 did register to apply for the selection process. First there was the application fee – the first step where many dropped out – followed by a submission of a small video – where again many dropped out.

But Keep demanded to view the list to which Lansdorp said: “Of course we cannot share the details of the applicants with you because that’s confidential, private information that we cannot share.”

Funding is another grey area – a black area I would say – as a mission that is expected to cost billions hasn’t even managed to raise half a million pounds and according to Keep the figure stands at $633,440. Mars One has maintained until now that most the funding for the project will be coming through media rights for a reality TV show that will follow the candidates as they go on their mission. But with no major production company onboard, this particular way of funding looks bleak.

Next up its Roche who made some startling revelations. Roche said that when the Mars One candidates appear on TV or in interviews, they are asked to give any fee to the Mars One project. This is according to a “tips for candidates” document that Roche said was distributed by Mars One in February. “We do kindly ask for you to donate 75 per cent of your profit to Mars One,” the document says.

When asked about the funding, Lansdorp’s reply was along the ‘unclear’ lines: “Right now Mars One is receiving funding from investors, from donations from all over the world, and from small corporate sponsors that are helping us. We’re in negotiation with a few very large brands, if they’re interested in partnering with Mars One.”

Keep also brings forth a range of issues including no contracts with private aerospace suppliers or TV production partner or any investment from major brands. He also highlights that the Netherlands-based company hasn’t even finalised a training facility where the candidates will be trained for 10 years to prep them for the journey to the red planet and subsequent life on it.