Christopher: don’t you dare to cross the ocean!

The following is a response written by of some of the Mars 100 Candidates to the Original article:

(“This is a reaction to the article by Elmo Keep

This is not an article designed to manipulate your opinion. This is a collection of information that was conveniently omitted in an article that does aim to manipulate your opinion. It is provided so that you can form your own opinion with complete information at your disposal.

1. “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.”

– They kindly ask. That is all they do. The candidates are not under contract to give any money to Mars One. They have no way of enforcing this request. This is simply a polite request asking them to continue their support of Mars One, as they are now very close to being part of their project. This request, along with gentle advice given to assist non-media savvy candidates, was additionally covered by an NDA, signed by all the Mars100.

The public’s interest is generated by Mars One and their project, making any profit coming from interviews done by the candidates logically tied to MO. However given previous experience, it is unlikely any of the candidates will be offered payment.

2. “Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.”

– The media are reporting a lot of things about Mars One. It would not be the first time when their information was inaccurate or misleading. Even though it would be desirable that Mars One corrected every false statement, they cannot be held responsible for how the media interpret and phrase their reports about Mars One.

3. “… some leading contenders for the mission had bought their way into that position, and are being encouraged to “donate” any appearance fees back to Mars One — which seemed to him very strange for an outfit that needs billions of dollars to complete its objective.”

– There are no “leading contenders” at this point. The point system you see on the website is nothing more than a collection of “achievements” based on how far the community member advanced through the selection process or how much money they contributed through donations or purchases. Like many online communities, Mars One uses “badges” to encourage engagement.  The points awarded have nothing to do with a candidates selection status. So although it is accurate to say they’ve “bought” their points with donations, these points do not influence their standing as far as the selection process goes. There are many candidates in the final 100 who have not donated anything to Mars One except for the initial application fee, and have, perhaps, bought themselves a T-shirt.

4. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

– You do not get points. You get badges. It is called ‘gamification’ and is designed to provide fun and engagement to the participant. Non-candidates also get badges for their participation in supporting Mars One.

– The following links describe what the badges represent and how the supported points will be used in the future

As a Mars One Supporter you’ll receive a number of community benefits such as:

  • Exclusive promotions and special offers on Mars One merchandise, events and activities only available to community members
  • Voting rights for several mission decisions up for vote, including the winners of the STEM and University Challenges
  • The chance to share suggestions and / or provide feedback on Mars One related activities

5. “I have not met anyone from Mars One in person,” he said. “Initially they’d said there were going to be regional interviews… we would travel there, we’d be interviewed, we’d be tested over several days, and in my mind that sounded at least like something that approached a legitimate astronaut selection process.

“But then they made us sign a non-disclosure agreement if we wanted to be interviewed, and then all of a sudden it changed from being a proper regional interview over several days to being a 10-minute Skype call.”

  • Mars One is only half-way through their selection process. It would have consumed inordinate amounts of time and money to go through rigorous testing for 660 Round 2 candidates. The psychology and capabilities of each individual will be tested in Round 3 and subsequently in Round 4 for those advancing further.
  • The testing that will be done during Rounds 3 and 4 will be narrowing down the number of candidates from 100 to 24 or less to enter training – a number comparable to the number of astronauts that enter NASA training at a time.
  • Roche notified Mars One he was dropping out even before the official public notice was released .  Had he waited just one day more, he would have learned from Dr. Kraft that there will, indeed, be face-to-face meetings, instruction, and testing for the Mars 100 this fall.  There are now several videos available freely through the internet where Norbert Kraft discusses the logic behind the online interviews.

6. “Roche said he then had a short Skype conversation with Mars One’s chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, during which he was quizzed with questions from literature about Mars and the mission that Mars One had provided to all the applicants. No rigorous psychological or psychometric testing was part of the appraisal.”

  • Dr. Kraft is a psychologist, and one with extensive experience in the field. It would be safe to assume that Dr. Kraft has more insight into the psychological testing done through the interview than the candidates do.
  • In the video interviews released after the Round 3 announcement, Dr. Kraft explains the psychological underpinnings of his questions.  They were designed to assess certain traits quickly, given that Dr. Kraft had to interview over 600 candidates (see video here and here )
  • Only 2 of the total 4 selection rounds have taken place thus far. Rounds 3 and 4 are more geared towards psychological evaluation. Of course, the 8 years of intensive training, including a simulated environment, will be even more crucial in identifying the suitable candidates. It is a mistake to think of 2 selection rounds in an entire process spanning nearly a decade as representative of the process as a whole.

7. “Mars One’s testing methods fall well short of NASA’s stringent astronaut corps requirements — not least in the case of anyone who would be training to be the mission commander, the individual who would actually pilot a theoretical craft to Mars. Commanders at NASA are required to have logged 1,000 jet aircraft flight hours to even be considered as training candidates for spaceflight.”

  • The Mars One project is very different to a typical NASA mission, and therefore has very different requirements for its astronaut candidates. The Mars One candidates would be primarily colonists, not astronauts or pilots. The Mars Transit Vehicle will be assembled in orbit by a trained crew, and the colonists will board the MTV in orbit. It is likely that course corrections and landing procedures will be automated – for uncrewed as well as crewed spacecraft.
  • There will be 10 years of training between selection and launch, which absolutely does compare to NASA’s level and depth of training. This training will likely cover emergency manual control of spacecraft.

8. ““That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”

  • Of course not. It only serves to judge whether it is worth investing more time and money into evaluating a candidate further. Which is why the selection process will go through two additional, much more thorough and in-person, selection rounds.

9. “But some cracks are emerging now. Reports emerged that the contract with the TV production company Endemol — which Mars One claimed could bring in up to $6 billion in revenue — was no longer in place and that the companies had gone their separate ways.”

  • The primary source of finance is to be an investment firm in the first stages of the mission (leading up to and including the first manned mission). The documentary and live broadcast aspects of the project are expected to bring in revenue at later stages of the project. Mars One is in talks with both an investment firm and a new production company to take over the documentary aspect of the project.
  • Collaboration with Endemol was reportedly ended as they were unable to reach an agreement over the terms of the contract.
  • The $6 billion in revenue was never stated to be entirely funded from one source.

10. “And last month the Nobel laureate and theoretical physicist Gerard ’t Hooft — previously listed as an “advisor” to the project — put a realistic timeframe for a crewed mission to Mars at 100 years from now, not 10.”

  • Gerard ‘t Hooft did indeed express some skepticism. He is one of the many members of the international scientific community whose opinions should be taken into account.
  • Prof ‘t Hooft was never listed as an adviser to the project, he was listed as an ambassador, and he still is.”)

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