“When you join the ‘*** Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points. You get points for getting through each round of the selection process… and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from *** or to donate money to them.”
Without knowing the name of the group running this “community,” you might say it resembles a multi-level marketing program. When you find out this statement is from someone who was a finalist for Mars One, the private Dutch organization promoting the idea of building a permanent human colony on the Red Planet, you realize this was more of a multi-level Martian-ing scheme. And “scheme” seems to be the operative words as the news hit this week that the for-profit arm of Mars One was declared bankrupt in January. The “finalists” may have lost all of their money, but at least they didn’t breathe their final breath while stuck on Mars.
“”By decision of 15 January 2019, the Civil Court of the City of Basel declared the company bankrupt with effect from 15 January 2019, 3.37 p.m., thus dissolving it.”
“The company” was Mars One Ventures, the Swiss-based for-profit arm of Mars One, which was valued at $100 million. That’s not much, considering the company formed in 2012 by Dutch entrepreneur Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp claimed to need $6 billion to meet its mission statement: “Human settlement of Mars is the next giant leap for humankind. Exploring the solar system as a united humanity will bring us all closer together.”
When you think about it, $6 billion doesn’t seem like enough to set up a Mars colonization expedition when it’s close to the figure being bandied about to build just a small portion of a certain wall on Earth. That should have been one of the many warning signs to anyone thinking about signing up. In fact, an exposé in 2014 found a lot of unusual problems, starting with that $6 billion budget which seemed too low – and yet, after crowdfunding and donations, Mars One barely raised one percent of it. Then there was the alleged 200,000 people signing up, which quickly became just 2,600 actual participants who sent in videos (and probably some money). An alleged deal with SpaceX to provide the transport was just that … alleged.
Then there was the real big flashing neon warning sign – Mars One proposed to turn the whole application process, training program and trip to Mars into a giant reality TV show that was alleged (there’s that word again) to be run by the creators of the Big Brother franchise. As Howie Mandel likes to say on his show with the models carrying briefcases – no deal.
And yet, Mars One did have some investors and volunteers who bought the pitch (and the starter kit) but not the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Engadget points out that it was obvious from the start that the money needed to fund a reality TV show was far less than one rocket launch and even if it made it to Mars, a group of scientists at MIT who studied the plan said it would quickly kill off the colonists … not exactly good for ratings.
What will happen now? Here’s the answer from the latest Mars One press release:
“Once out of administration, Mars One will redirect its focus. For the execution of the actual voyage to Mars, the company will continue to seek strategic collaboration with renowned companies and organizations involved with the travel to Mars. Mars One itself will focus on the even more inspiring “being there”, the adventurous story of humans actually living on Mars, making The Red Planet their new home. Utilizing its new investment plan, Mars One Ventures will establish a marketing machine, creating continuous content about these activities, evaluated from all angles, including technological, psychological, economical, and ethical aspects. The new investor will present its plans at a press conference on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, at a location to be determined.”
Being there? Forget Mars. Let’s see what “investor plans on “being there” March 6.