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Funding for a project that aims to send four humans to Mars for permanent residence is nearly complete and the next stage will likely begin early next year, the chief of the Mars One mission told Khaleej Times.
Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, is in Dubai to give a presentation about the mission at the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre at Silicon Oasis. He spoke to Khaleej Times about the mission's current status and where it's headed.
The Mars One mission was first announced in 2012, with a launch date of 2022. However, due to lack of funding, the new departure date has been set to 2031. A whopping 200,000 applications were received from people worldwide, who were willing to spend their remaining lives on the Red Planet. Now, 100 competitors remain and two of them are UAE residents.
"In 2012, we were hoping to have the first humans on Mars in 2023. We've had quite a significant delay, which was mostly because of funding and that seems to have been resolved now, since we are now listed in the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and we have a six million euros investment agreement signed. Now, we're really ready to take the next steps," Lansdorp said.
"The money will only start flowing when our shares start trading at the exchange again, which should happen in a couple of months. Then, we know the next steps we want to take, which are to sign contracts with aerospace companies, hiring new people to work for the foundation and for the for-profit part of the company, creating documentaries on the astronaut selection, we can project how many people come to the website and how much that will yield through merchandise. We can show that both the foundation and Mars One ventures are going to be cash positive from about the first quarter of 2019."
The mission faced heavy criticism over the years from the science community, mainly over the high level of expertise and funding required for it.
When Khaleej Times addressed these concerns to Lansdorp, he said many of the obstacles the mission was facing, have been resolved now.
"Any mission to Mars is a huge challenge. Nasa has been planning on going to Mars in 20 years for 50 years now. It's obviously very difficult. I can't guarantee that we will make it but I do believe that we have a good chance," he said.
"The reason that our mission has a good chance for success is that we are proposing a plan of permanent settlement. We don't have to develop the technology to get humans from Mars to back to earth. Even rockets from the earth have a five per cent of failure, but, by eliminating these risks, it makes our mission feasible."
The upcoming third round of the mission will aim to narrow down the 100 participants to just 40. They will be selected based on a series of psychological exams and team working skills.
Round four is when the remaining 40 candidates will be receiving an income through the mission.
"We need to select people who are healthy and smart. We will train them for the skills that they need to survive - engineering, medical and botanical skills. This, we can train anyone with a brain. The real challenging part of our mission is the fact that it is a permanent settlement. They will be on Mars for two years and then the second crew will join, then the third crew will join and so on and that's the biggest challenge," he said.
"We'll select teams of four and lock them up together under Martian conditions, where they have a lot of restrictions and to be together with a group is something they've never experienced, so, we need to see how they deal with that. From these, one group of four will be selected for the journey in the beginning."
The mission also requires a Mars-like outpost for the training to take place and the UAE deserts are one of the places Lansdorp is considering for it.
All you need to know about Mars One
What is Mars One?
Mars One is a one-way mission to Mars, which was launched to establish a permanent settlement on Mars by 2032.
Are people willing to move permanently to Mars?
Around 200,000 people worldwide had applied when the project was first announced. Now, 100 remain and the final four will be selected in the last round. Two of the 100 candidates are from the UAE. For the final four, two women and two men will be selected.
What is the budget of the project?
The mission needs an estimated $6 billion overall to send the first four people to Mars.
How this project being funded?
The project's chief Bas Lansdorp said Mars One has two entities - a foundation where people donate and a for-profit venture, where they make money from application fees, merchandising sales, their website and through an upcoming documentary series. Lansdorp said they have recently signed a six million euros agreement, however, need a final four million euros before the mission starts "self-funding" the rest of the budget that is needed.
When will the first crew land on Mars?
The aim is by 2032, followed by another crew in 2034, next one in 2036 and so on.
What will they do there?
The reason behind the permanent settlement is that the crew can build their own colony. They will be growing their own food and will spend the rest of their lives there, all in efforts to build a human civilisation on the Red Planet.
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