I’m not quite sure what to think of the news that a Dutch-based non-profit organization is looking to pick Mars colonists via a reality TV show. But it is indeed happening, according to Space.com.
The organization, Mars One, is inviting interested participants to submit a one-minute video explaining why they want to go to Mars. The hope is that the endeavour will create awareness and that some of the videos go viral, which will presumably raise advertising revenue to further fund the selection process.
Mars One hopes to have 24 prospective astronauts by the middle of 2015, at which point they’ll undergo seven years of training, including spending three months at a time in a Mars colony replica. The organization is also trying to discourage people who aren’t serious by stressing that any trips to the red planet will, at this point, be one-way journeys.
It sounds a little too crackpot-ish to be real. After all, is Mars One planning to televise the entire seven years of training? Not many shows make it that long, let alone reality series. Also, is it even legal to allow people to sign on for something that could and most likely will be fatal? Sure, astronauts accept a great deal of risk when they join up, but they and everyone else have every expectation of them coming back from their missions. It seems like there are some legalities to be ironed out here before anything like that can go ahead.
On the other hand, it’s not like television hasn’t been used to spur excitement about space exploration before. Both Star Trek and The Jetsons began airing in the 1960s at the height of the U.S.-USSR space race. Both helped stoke a generation’s imaginations about what the final frontier might hold.
Times change, of course, so maybe a reality TV show is the right way to go about getting today’s youth interested in space. Just as long as it doesn’t end up being anything like this: