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For those of you who haven’t heard, the Dutch nonprofit Mars One is aiming to start sending humans to the Red Planet in 2024. The field of over 200,000 aspiring pioneers has been whittled down to just over 1,000. All of these applicants are ostensibly ready to leave their Earthly lives behind. Among many other aspects, Mars One has a particularly interesting funding plan. Aside from donations, it plans to fund this ambitious project by turning the whole thing, application process and all, into a reality television show. In this day and age, is this really surprising? Now, Mars One will join forces with Lionsgate TV and they’re about to start shopping the show to networks.
After initially denying the rumors, founder Bas Lansdorp says that Mars One is “eagerly awaiting the contract” with Lionsgate, and will “make a more detailed announcement when a contract is signed.” Despite the lack of verified details, plenty of information is surfacing on the old interwebs, including an interesting news bit that Lionsgate will start a casting search of its own, eventually merging with what Mars One has already started. This seems a bit confusing. Does this mean starting from scratch, rather than looking back over the Mars One applicants? The earlier applicants submited videos in which they discussed why they want to go to Mars and what qualifications they bring. Would Lionsgate applicants do the same? What qualifications are necessary for a reality television contestant other than a propensity for drama? Bear in mind that the shuttle ride to Mars will take 7-8 months. If there are any drama queens in four person groups, they’re all liable to kill each other, or themselves, long before they even arrive.
What we do know for sure is that the Mars One website details the astronaut selection process. Starting with round two, candidates who pass health examinations will undergo an interview that “could be aired on TV and internet.” Round three, the regional selection portion, may also air around the world. This round will involve 20-40 applicants engaging in challenges designed to highlight the skills (or lack thereof) they bring to the table. According to the website, “The audience will select one winner per region and Mars One experts will select additional participants to continue to Round 4.” This stage “will be an international event that will be broadcast throughout the world” and will culminate in the selection of a four-candidate group that would begin training for the mission. Mars One likes to use the word “could” here, leaving the door open for broadcasts (or not), which would then focus on the 8-year training process.
Wow. 8 years of reality TV before the trip to Mars? Can’t they edit that stuff down? Oh right, this is all supposed to be unscripted and real. They have yet to decide whether the installments would be released every day, week, or month. And there will be plenty of drama even before the launch, as candidates drop out for whatever reason (ie, a sudden burst of sanity) and new candidates are brought in. The show, which unlike Big Brother or Survivor, is “a true social experiment,” according to Lionsgate. There’s no prize money at the end, and no one will be voted off the island once the shuttle has landed, unless they’ve managed to alienate everyone else on the planet. Certainly the possibility, if not the likelihood of death will amp up the drama, and probably the viewership too. And isn’t that the most important consideration when it comes to colonizing another planet for the first time?