Just a few weeks ago, I discovered the most mind-bending, thought provoking (and creepy) science fiction story ever proposed to grace the screen. And I’m not talking about Prometheus.
In fact, what I’m talking about may not actually be science fiction. Right now, it mostly depends on how much of a pessimist you are. The story I’m referring to is Mars One.
No, this isn’t some big budget John Carter sequel. What we’re talking about here is a new reality television show. I know what you’re thinking – “WTF, Dave?!” – but I assure you, this is something different. Mars One will follow the lives of four people who will travel to, and colonize the “Red Planet.”
That’s the gist of it, but of course the devil is in the details. The Mars One project is slated to begin next year, with the launch of a special communications satellite that would orbit Mars. Around that same time, the
astronauts stars of the show would start their long, arduous training process – a program that would last a decade. During those years, a series of preparation launches would take place, delivering supplies, food, shelter, and manufacturing equipment. Remote controlled robotic rovers would have the task of erecting the habitats and getting things ready for move-in day, which would happen sometime in 2023.
It sounds crazy, impossible even- except that it’s not… impossible, that is. Most of the technology is off-the-shelf, so the whole thing doesn’t rely on some yet-to-be-invented flux capacitor or warp drive. The largest, and probably most complex piece of equipment involved is the vehicle to get us there. In this case, a modified version of the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, which recently made history by being the first privately owned spacecraft to dock with the international space station.
You might also think that nobody in their right mind would ever make this trip. After all, even though the technology is there, putting it all together and making it work in ways we’ve only ever dreamed of will be nothing but dangerous. There’s also the matter of the trip itself, which entails four people spending seven months cramped inside a capsule with about as much room as a Chrysler minivan. But worst of all, if they manage to make the journey without equipment failure, getting fried by radiation, or going insane, once they get to Mars it’s the end of the road. The plan is only remotely cost effective if it’s a one way trip, so anyone who goes will be spending the rest of their life on Mars. And yet thousands of inquiries have flooded the Mars One inbox from all over the world.
So it turns out the biggest stumbling block is the price tag: a relatively measly 6 billion dollars, or less than one third of NASA’s budget for a year. And this is where the reality show comes in. In order to fund this massive undertaking, the people behind Mars One (a Dutch businessman, and a Nobel Prize winning physicist) plan to broadcast the colonists 24/7 on live television, and they’re selling the rights to the highest bidders. Although they would never admit it outright, they are well aware of the long odds and are counting on people’s insatiable appetite for disaster to bring in the dough.
Personally, my imagination has been on overdrive ever since I heard about this. I’m envisioning something that resembles a mash-up of Big Brother and Event Horizon. I can’t even wrap my mind around the mental fortitude it would take to embark on this kind of journey – leaving behind everything you know and traveling 200 million miles to spend the rest of your life with a handful of people in a tiny outpost on an alien planet. If something unforeseen goes wrong, and it seems like it almost undoubtedly will, there is no rescue.
If the project is successful (that is, if nobody tosses themselves out of an airlock or murders their crewmates), Mars One would broadcast the show indefinitely, sending up four new people every year to build the colony – and add to the cast of characters.
I, for one, despise ‘reality TV.’ I think it represents the absolute worst our culture has to offer. Mars One is different. I’d like to think it’s very different, but I’m not so certain. Sure people will tune in for the historical significance, but after that wears off – well, everybody still loves a train wreck.
To find out more, visit the Mars One website at www.mars-one.com and check out the promo video below.
Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)