Mars One CEO on the defensive, admits to significant delays

20 Mar 20153 Shares

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Following open criticism from Dr Joseph Roche about the Mars One mission, the project’s CEO Bas Lansdorp has come out in a stark defence of his team’s procedures.

At the start of the week Roche gave an interview to Medium.com, with the article claiming flaws throughout the Mars One project.

Shoddy interview processes, questionable funding situations and unrealistic targets painted the whole Mars One mission in a dark light.

Now, Lansdorp has spoken out about errors he perceives in those claims, saying he values “good criticism”, despite the fact his team have since booted the Irishman out of contention following his comments.

Disputing Elmo Keep – the journalist behind the article – earlier claiming that just over 2,000 “paid the registration fee” to apply for a place on the mission, Lansdorp said 200,000 people applied, while also saying donations are in no way linked to candidates’ assessment.

Is an eight-year delay a failure?

Lansdorp also defended the actual interview process, saying that it is sufficiently rigorous, and will get even more arduous for applicants now that the final 100 – well, 99 after Roche was dismissed – have been selected.

“It is not so complex to determine who is not qualified to go to Mars, which is what we have been doing so far,” he says. Though Roche’s claim that he’s never even met someone to do with Mars One is pretty galling.

But most revealing in Lansdorp’s comments is the admitted, and potentially larger, delays to the project. It seems funding is an issue, with the latest round taking “longer than expected”, meaning the first unmanned mission will no longer take place in 2018, but rather 2020. A similar delay is then placed on the first human mission, pushing it back to 2027.

“Is it really a failure if we land our first crew two, four, six, or even eight years late?” he asks.

Money worries remain

The financial concerns are very significant. Just as Medium, and indeed Sky News, reported, TV company Endemol’s financial interest in the project has ceased – worryingly, this partnership was billed as coming up with a large chunk of the US$6bn the team believes it will cost to send people on a one-way trip to Mars.

“In the end the deal fell apart on final details in the contract and therefore Mars One ended that cooperation,” says Lansdorp. “We have worked with a new production company since November of last year. They are currently selling the documentary series to an international broadcaster. There is no deal in place yet but it is looking very promising and there is a lot of interest.”

Going to Mars is difficult, he says, pointing to NASA’s consistent worries about engaging in such a mission. He does say, though, that they have achieved a lot already – gaining contracts for equipment and unmanned missions, as well as having a “very impressive board of ambassadors” and advisors.

“I believe we are on track and moving in the right direction. We may have a two-year delay now but we show that people are interested in Mars One and in Mars exploration," he says.

“People want this to happen and it is my conviction that as long as we can show that we are moving in the right direction, that we are getting the right companies under contract, and we are getting these contracts done, then the world will accept that we have a delay in getting our humans to Mars.”

Mars image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com