"This mission will attract billions of viewers"

By Vincent Bongers

“Who, in this audience, would consider living permanently on Mars?” Bas Lansdorp asks a hall full of law students. One hand pops up. The director and founder of Mars One has been invited by Leiden University’s International Institute of Air and Space Law to disclose his plans to set up a permanent colony on Mars.

Lansdorp continues: “People will go to Mars, I’m certain of it. We always want to learn what’s beyond the horizon, just like the early explorers, Columbus and so on, who set out across the ocean in small wooden boats. This is hardly more radical and has the advantage that we know exactly where we’re heading. Of course, the astronauts will face difficult times in the tiny capsules and, later, on the planet itself. But most of the time they’ll walk around smiling because they are living their dream.”

Lansdorp explains what needs to be done before the first manned mission can leave in 2024. First, a satellite will be put into an orbit around the planet for 24/7 communication between Mars and Earth. After the launch of a second satellite, a Mars Rover will be sent to find the right spot for the colony and to transport goods. Next, they’ll send a spacecraft full of equipment and when that’s all sorted, Mars One can send the first four colonists.

The organisation wants to fund the mission with a television show on the selection of the crew and the colonisation. “This is so interesting, it will attract billions of viewers all over the globe.” Mars One is also trying to persuade multimillionaires like Carlos Slim in Mexico to donate some cash. “May be the colony will be called Slimcity or Gatesville.”

But perhaps the colonists will stop broadcasting for privacy reasons, says someone from the audience. “They can switch off the cameras, who’s going to stop them?” This is immediately followed by a barrage of follow-up questions: What if Slim then decides to stop the funding? Who will guarantee that the colonists can survive in that case? Lansdorp doesn’t have any ready answers to all these questions.

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