Mars One
Is Mars One in trouble? A finalist has spoken out about the less than ideal candidate selection process, and work had stalled on its unmanned missionMars One

It's been a busy week for the Dutch-based Mars One mission in the media, as a finalist has come out to explain why he believes the entire project is science fiction, which has been strongly refuted by the mission's CEO.

Dr Joseph Roche is an assistant professor at Trinity College's School of Education in Dublin with a PHD in physics and astrophysics. He was one of the 100 shortlisted candidates picked for the Mars One mission, which aims to send humans to colonise the red planet from 2027 (delayed from the initial plan of 2024).

On 17 March, he broke his silence in an email interview with Matter stating that the selection process for the mission is fundamentally flawed, and that he has yet to meet anyone in person from Mars One.

Points gained by donating money

"When you join the 'Mars One Community,' which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points," said Roche.

"You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them."

Roche said that the people who were most likely to be selected for the space colonisation project were the ones who had generated the most money for the mission, rather than having any training or expertise as an astronaut.

He also said that the initially announced regional interviews and in-person testing process was changed to a 10-minute Skype interview instead.

No psychological or psychometric testing

And during the interview, Roche claims the Mars One's medical officer Norbert Kraft asked him questions based on the Mars One-produced literature about the red planet and the mission, but there was no psychological or psychometric testing.

In contrast, to even be considered to become a training candidate for spaceflight with Nasa, individuals have to have logged at least 1,000 jet aircraft flight hours.

"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... and then a 10-minute Skype interview," Roche said. "That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything."

The Mars One mission has said that there have been 200,000 applicants hoping to go into space, but Roche said that the number is significantly lower – only 2,761 people had applied.

The CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, has hit out at Roche's revelations in a video released on YouTube on 19 March.

Mission held up due to investor agreement

"The suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis on how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true and this is very easy to find that on our website," said Lansdorp.

"There are a lot of current Round 3 candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One and there are also lots of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One."

He revealed during the video that the mission had now been delayed to 2027, but remained firm that the figure of $6bn (£4bn) previously cited by Mars One as being the cost of the mission, was not a gross underestimation, as many critics have pointed out (Nasa estimated the mission to cost $23bn).

"We are very confident that our budget will be enough," said Lansdorp, although he added that the first unmanned mission would also need to be delayed from 2018 to 2020, due to an agreement with a consortium of investors taking "longer than expected".

No partnerships or investments announced

This ties in with news that Mars One suspended work on its unmanned robotic missions on 18 March.

Finally, Lansdorp also admitted that TV production company Endemol had pulled out of covering the mission, and so Mars One were looking for a new production company.

Other Mars One finalists have come out to refute Roche's claims too, such as 21-year-old physics student Ryan McDonald, and the fact remains that there is very little information from Mars One about the mission now.

Since the initial study contracts awarded in 2013 to Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology were completed, Mars One has no partnerships with private or public aerospace technology manufacturers, or any investment announced with any major corporation.

There have been many articles criticising Mars One since the idea was first announced in 2011, and this will likely continue until Mars One can prove their pipe dream is rooted in reality.