It’s been just over four months since the nonprofit Mars One first opened their mailboxes for applications to the upcoming astronaut-training reality show which will culminate in a four-person team traveling on a one-way, internationally broadcast mission to Mars in 2023. Dutch co-founder Bas Lansdorp had initially hoped for upwards of one million applicants before lowering his goals to around 500,000. But with the August 31 application deadline quickly creeping up, the current total of 165,000 applicants is probably lower than Mars One’s hypothetical worst-case scenario. And it’s pretty surprising, given over 20,000 people signed up in the first few weeks. But Lansdorp is far from discouraged.
“The 165,000 applicants that we have so far is still, a very, very large number,” Lansdorp told SPACE.com, “and the TV people that we talk to — we have two very serious discussions going on with consortia of investors that include media.” Whittling down 24 finalists out of 165,000 people will be quite the undertaking, so I’m sure whoever is going through these entries isn’t upset about a lighter workload. But this wasn’t about people, it was about the application fees that were helping pay for everything from the website to the testing facilities that need to be built to train the adventurous amateur astronauts. This disappointing turnout means $20 million of expected funding never accumulated. Different countries paid different fee amounts, so that number could go higher or lower. Lansdorp wasn’t forthcoming with the specific numbers, but did say the 165,000 included people who hadn’t even paid the fee yet.
Twenty million dollars is a blip on the radar next to the actual mission, which is projected to cost around $6 billion, but it’s still a hefty chunk of change that could have served many purposes. Lansdorp explained a number of other ways in which they’ll be able to supply funding for the project.
For one, he may be able to share technologies with millionaire and original space tourist Dennis Tito, whose Inspiration Mars mission will send a two-person team on a Mars flyby in 2018. He recently announced that Mars One is accepting donations via Bitcoin. It’ll be a while before it’s decided how both the reality show and the mission itself will be broadcast to the world, but wherever it goes, the sponsors will almost assuredly show up in droves. Lansdorp uses the $4 billion that televising the London Olympics brought in. Added to other private contributions and possible future crowdfunding, Lansdorp has many financial avenues to travel down before he has any need to worry.
He also mentioned that Mars One will soon be telling the public more about the 2016 robotic demonstration mission, in which a satellite will travel to Martian orbit, where it will be able to transmit images, video, and more from Earth to Mars and vice versa.
You still have a couple of days to get in on the application process. Watch the promo video below and get your space boots ready.