Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Crackpots

Mars Olympus mons

Mars Olympus mons

I want to apply to the Mars mission scheduled for take off in 2022: “Mars Mission Now Accepting Applications”. The unknown expanse of the universe has always fascinated me. The Discovery Channel is my network. Whenever they broadcast anything about the universe/planets/space travel/black holes/dark matter/collapsing stars – you get the picture – I’m glued to the television monitor. Who isn’t transfixed by the possibilities awaiting us once we leave the confines of planet Earth? The potential of discovery inspires awe and in many cases, lack of constraint. We wait for the next Science Fiction chronicle to unfold and reveal the deep, unfathomable meanings that connect us to the universe.

But I’m stymied by the missive instructing me to “Please pay a registration fee to proceed to the online astronaut application.” Wait. Can I actually become an astronaut online? Is it like the University of Phoenix? God, I hope so because I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut and this looks like the perfect opportunity. But again I halt at the request to pay $38 [in the United States] via PayPal and decide to forgo the application process in lieu of checking out whom I might be travelling with.

At another webpage I’m privy to information about all those who have already signed up and it’s a pretty skippy crew – to say the least. Most look like Facebook fanatics who are no longer aware that real human interaction is possible. The page is titled: “THESE PEOPLE APPLIED TO GO TO MARS” but at first glance it resembles an F.B.I. round up that should read, “THESE PEOPLE ARE WANTED FOR QUESTIONING.”

Emigration – The Mars One astronauts will depart Earth assuming that they will never return. This radically changes the mission requirements, reducing the need for return vehicles associated with currently unavailable technologies and far greater costs.

Potential “astronauts” upload videos of themselves – this appears to be part of the application process – and after viewing only three, I am convinced that the ubiquitous tools of social media have indeed, fallen into the wrong hands. The resulting videos are a mix of earnest grandstanding and complete ineptitude – reminiscent of old Saturday Night Live skits. Some are just plain scary. The intent, of course, is to woo those in charge of the selection process. Applicants are asked to describe their sense of humor – evidently a prime consideration once one is confined to a small, oxygenated workspace with no hope of escape, or return to Earth. This is an instance where a job a description should necessarily read, “Must work well in teams under critical situations”.

Emigration – The Mars One astronauts will depart Earth assuming that they will never return. This radically changes the mission requirements, reducing the need for return vehicles associated with currently unavailable technologies and far greater costs.

Spirit's West Valley Panorama on Mars

Spirit’s West Valley Panorama on Mars

I wonder if this type of advertising missive could work outside the parameters of an online environment? Could I walk into my local library and tell people that for $38 they can sign up for my manned mission to Mars and be part of the trip except that there’s one catch – you’re never coming back – and make this seem like an attractive offer? Apparently it’s attractive enough for 10,000 applicants – and counting – to have signed up so far according to The Guardian.

Certainly, for a long time, there will be need for new supplies such as computers, clothing, specialty foods (chocolate, coffee, and tea), and complex spare parts which cannot be readily reproduced with Mars based 3D printers and computer aided mills.

Wait, no coffee or chocolate? Are you kidding me? So this is looking less and less like a “go” for me and more like a “What the hell was I thinking?” What about the “no complex spare parts” part? What happens if something breaks down? Who will fix it? The guy from South Jersey who stated emphatically in his application video that he was, free, single, curious about everything, and had a nerdy and unexpected sense of humor?

There is also the prospect of the Manned Mars Mission becoming a – wait for it – reality TV show. Really. That’s according to one of the “ambassadors” to the project, Paul Römer who is a producer of reality TV shows in the Netherlands. And by the way, what makes anyone think that television will still be in existence by the year 2023 when the astronauts supposedly arrive to the Red Planet? We may be all living like Mad Max by then, foraging for food and water in a depleted environment; desperate for shelter from the elements and devoid of our iPhones/pads/pods/ and whatever passes for entertainment currently…

It looks like The Discovery Channel will be the closest I get to Mars and it’s probably a good thing. “Mars One” has all the earmarks of a cult… You go in – you don’t come out. Well, you know what they say, “In space no one can hear you scream.”

— Deborah Johnstone

For a rational list of all that can go wrong, check out Harry Keller’s excellent article, Mars One: Exciting Adventure or Hoax? at ETC Journal. [Keller has a PhD in analytical chemistry]

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One response to “Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Crackpots

  1. After reading you article, I decided not to enroll in the mars mission.
    Thank you for your input . Paul Nazak a future astronaut.

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