The amateur astronauts competing for a one-way ticket to Mars must demonstrate the supreme physical and psychological skills which will enable them to survive in one of the universe’s most inhospitable landscapes.
Now Endemol, the creators of Big Brother, is to turn the “world’s toughest job interview” – the selection of the first humans to establish a permanent settlement on Mars – into the ultimate reality show.
The privately-funded Mars One mission aims to land 20 humans on Mars by 2025. More than 200,000 people worldwide applied to join the first human colony on the Red Planet, where they will set up home on inflatable pods.
The ticket to Mars, where the temperature is -60C and the atmosphere has so little oxygen it cannot be breathed, is strictly one-way. Instead Mars One, led by Dutch businessman Bas Landsdorp, will send additional crews every two years to further build the pioneering colony.
The cost of the first mission is expected to be around £3.6 billion and funds will be raised by selling exclusive broadcasting rights to the mission, built around a global “Big Brother-style event”, following the selection and training of the hopefuls.
The applicants have been whittled down to 705 candidates - 418 men and 287 women - who will be invited for a personal interview. The prospective Mars settlers will then be required to dedicate eight years of their lives to preparing full-time for the 300 million-mile mission.
Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP), an Endemol company, will film the trainee space-travellers as they are “tested to the extreme as part of an elite training program run by a panel comprised of pre-eminent scientists, adventurers and astronauts”.
There are 22 people from Britain who have made it through to Phase Two of the mission, including Sarah Johnson, 30, an accountant from Inverness. She said in her video application: “The reason I want to go on the mission to Mars is I find myself waking up every morning thinking there must be more to life. I want to dispel the myth that accountants are dull.”
Candidates need not have any scientific qualifications and a Big Brother-style audience vote will be used to make the final choice from applicants who have successfully completed their training.
Lansdorp said: “Our team felt all along that we needed a partner whose strength lies in factual storytelling to an international audience. DSP will provide that to Mars One, while allowing our selection committee to maintain control of the applicant selection process. This really is a perfect fit for both of us.”
Iain Riddick, head of special projects at the Bafta-winning DSP, said: “This has to be the world’s toughest job interview for what is without question a world-first opportunity and the human stories that emerge will captivate and inspire generations across the globe.” The “knowledge, intelligence, adaptability and personality” of the candidates will be assessed.
The cameras will follow the first human settlers on the planet as they attempt to build a new society from scratch. They food they bring from Earth is intended for use as emergency rations with the colonists growing plants indoors using a mineral nutrient solution.
Their inflatable pods will be sited where there is a high water content in the soil. The water will be extracted by heating the soil until it evaporates, then condensing and storing it. Spacesuits will be required whenever they step outside their living pods.
Crowdfunding and sponsorship will be used to raise additional funds for the mission before the first crew of four departs in 2024. Each further manned mission will cost around £2.3 billion.
Scientists believe that Mars One’s projected arrival date of 2025, following an eight-month flight, is optimistic. Nasa has stated that they intend to land humans on the red planet in 2035.
The technologies required for sustainable human settlement on Mars are still being developed, claimed Nasa, which has made getting humans to the planet as its “primary mission”.
Life on Mars One
Astronauts will have “relatively spacious living units”, with over 50 square metres per person
The first inhabitants will determine how to organise themselves politically based on their studies of different social structures on Earth
Settlers are advised not to have children, due to limited medical facilities and a lack of knowledge about the impact of reduced gravity on an unborn child
Religious activity and beliefs will be a matter of individual choice
When pioneers die they will receive a “memorial service and cremation ceremony, like customs on Earth dictate”
Sarah, 30, Inverness: “I want to dispel the myth that accountants are dull and boring by becoming the world’s first astronaut accountant.”
Alison, 34, from London, is a laboratory technician who says she has “a childlike wonder about the universe in which we live.”
Scott, 33, from Birmingham, is a web developer. He said: “I once saved my friend’s life by being decisive and calm under pressure while others around me were panicking and not making decisions.”
Maggie, 24, is doing a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Birmingham and would make it a priority to communicate science if she was given the opportunity to go to Mars.