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Thousands of Space Nerds Have Volunteered to Die on Mars

  • Maureen Elsberry

The idea of colonizing Mars is far from new. It’s a concept that has been discussed for decades, and plans have been constructed by companies like SpaceX, NASA, Virgin Galactic, and various other private space companies. But there is one company that is hell bent on beating Elon Musk and the like to land a man on the Red Planet . . . permanently.

Bas LansdorpMars One, a not-for-profit foundation, first appeared on the scene in 2010, developed by the Netherlands based Interplanetary Media Group, led by Bas Lansdorp. The venture aims to send a group of self-contained habitats to join up with the Mars Rover Curiosity (if it survives that long) to ready themselves for human habitation by 2025. In 2012, the organization launched a viral campaign to attract not only funding and media hype, but the poor souls willing to leave it all behind and venture permanently into the unknown.

While the colonization goal is almost a decade away, over 200,000 signed up for the chance to be the first to die on Mars.  Now they’ve trimmed down the fat and by the end of this year, only 100 potential candidates will remain. The question on virtually everyone’s mind is, how insane do you have to be to volunteer to give up everything for a one-way ticket to a desolate planet?

Here’s just a small taste of what you’d have to give up on your new life quest: family, friends, beer, good food, and intercourse. Participants are discouraged from engaging in sexual activity because they’re not yet equipped for space babies. And the possibility of pregnancy is a risk that’s just too high to take. Most people wouldn’t be able to give that list up for the 6-8 month journey to the Red Planet, yet alone, on a permanent basis.

A short documentary completed by The Guardian in February entitled, If I Die on Mars, provided a brief glance at three individuals vying for the opportunity to do just that. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that one of the possible contenders, who can recite Pi to the 90th digit, is a virgin. In fact, he’s never even kissed anyone. When asked if he masturbates, he replied, “Well, yes . . . but there’s a scientific reason for that . . . it raises your risk of prostate cancer if you don’t.” Clearly, he seems just fine with the notion of never having sex. Then there’s the pretty Iraqi-American woman who already said goodbye to the religious practices she grew up with and her family years ago. Her opinion on the discouraged activity was, “You can satisfy yourself.” But who’re they kidding? A lifetime without carnal knowledge? Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned pullout method? You can almost guarantee that eventually, space-sex and, perhaps, space babies will happen. Maybe we should start working on a form of space-age birth control. I’m curious, would the first baby born on Mars get dual interplanetary citizenship? 

It may come as a shock to the primordial system, but these people who have chosen to give up everything are relatively normal. They’re smart, intuitive, and just the kind of people you would want to represent humanity on extraterrestrial landscape. So what’s the next step for these (if they follow the “rules”) soon-to-be chaste subjects? Mars One plans to whittle the contenders down further to six groups of four who will train for 8 years to survive harsh conditions, apply ration to extreme situations, and to develop an understanding of what lonely truly means.

The goal is to have these well-intentioned, albeit nerdy, individuals veering through the treacherous space to their future red home-planet by the time we hit the year 2025 on Earth.

But where will the money for this venture come from? In perhaps a smart business move, the company plans to take advantage of the general populace’s perverse attraction to reality television. The grand scheme is to film the final selection process, 8-years of training, and the chosen colonists’ eventual new life on Mars. Does this remind you of The Truman Show? Yeah, me too . . . except good luck capturing all the drama when the participants put a piece of duct-tape over the cameras from 34 - 249 million miles away. Game over.

Mars RoverWhat would be MOST interesting, and also terrifying, is if the colonists discover a native life form on Mars. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest life once thrived on the surface, but there is no evidence that the planet is indeed teeming with life today, with exception to a few suspect microbial (alleged) discoveries. If, indeed, conspiracy theorists are right, then perhaps an extraterrestrial neighbor might exist within the intricate lava tube system deep underground. What might those neighbors be like? Well, to be honest, we have no clue. And I am quick to reference the pre-cursor to the Alien franchise, Prometheus. Good luck guys, report back if you’re not consumed by a parasitic worm.

For the most part, the rest of us pansies will probably opt for life on this forlorn planet, until there is no other option. Keep our beds warm for us colonists, don’t forget to Instagram. We’ll bring the scotch in a few hundred years.