Mars colonist candidate expresses grave doubts about mission

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2015 1:40 PM

By Irene Klotz

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A contender for a one-way mission to Mars says the venture is unrealistic and will not work, according to an essay by the candidate published on Wednesday.

Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist and lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, is among 100 finalists selected by Mars One, a nonprofit Dutch organization, for possible permanent resettlement on Mars in 10 years.

“I do not think we will see a one-way mission in my lifetime,” Roche wrote in an article published on Wednesday in the Guardian newspaper.

His comments are not the first words of skepticism about the project in the scientific community. In October, researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that the plan, which aims to establish a self-sufficient colony of 24 settlers, is flawed.

“Although Mars One was never likely to overcome the financial and technical barriers during the proposed timeline, it was refreshing to hear a new idea that challenges us to think about our own role in the future of space exploration,” Roche wrote.

Roche broke his silence after Mars One issued a “top 10 candidates” list which he said was based on how much financial support candidates had donated to the organization.

“I think that the shortcomings of the selection process, coupled with (Mars One's) unwillingness to engage and collaborate with the scientific community, means that the time might have come for Mars One to acknowledge the implausibility of this particular venture,” Roche said in the essay.

Mars One denied that candidates’ financial contributions affect the selection process. Many successful candidates "have never contributed financially beyond the application fee, and there are many that did contribute significantly, but were not selected to proceed to the next selection round,” Mars One communications director Suzanne Flinkenflögel wrote in an email to Reuters.

Mars One skeptics have questioned various aspects of the project. "For example, if all food is obtained from locally grown crops, as Mars One envisions, the vegetation would produce unsafe levels of oxygen, which would set off a series of events that would eventually cause human inhabitants to suffocate," MIT said.

Likewise, a system to bake out ice from Martian soil for drinking water does not exist, the study found.

Last month, industry trade publication Space News reported that Mars One contractors Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology had completed concept studies for robotic precursor missions, but had not signed contracts for follow-on work.

(Editing by David Adams and Matthew Lewis)