why colonizing another planet really shouldn’t be a reality show

April 26, 2013

mars one habitat

The Mars One project generated a good deal of media attention by promising to fund its efforts to colonize the Red Planet with a reality show which would follow the crews on their one way trip and chronicle their efforts at living on another world. Now while this sounds like the most far out premise for the next season of Survivor, it’s a terrible idea for an actual mission. If you’ve ever seen a reality show, you know that producers don’t really cast people as much as they cast the stereotypes they think will give viewers the most bang for their buck. If Gordon Ramsey didn’t go on epic tirades over every dish not up to his par, slamming trays, punching the food, and having fits of apoplectic rage that would put a banshee to shame, you’d be left with a fairly boring hour of TV that would be more at home at the Food Network than on a broadcast channel. Could you imagine Hell’s Spacecraft as a real mission to extend human cities to a new planet?

And that’s not even getting to the fact that Mars One is asking anyone to apply for what should be a mission for extremely well trained professionals with numerous actual space flights on their resumes, and charging as much as $38 just to look at an application, and that it will rely on new rockets built by SpaceX to do the actual work, as well as the fact that it’s spending no time at all trying to address all the problems with flying to Mars in capsules? At the end of the day this has to be either a scam, or just a really terrible idea that will never pan out. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to colonize Mars or that we can’t pull it off if we really devoted plenty of time, energy, and resources to it. We absolutely should and we’re probably very close to the place we need to be to safely and comfortably send crews to the Red Planet. But making reality shows out of it, raising money by promising one way trips to alien worlds, and relying on brand new technology not really meant or tested for these missions is not the way to go about it.

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  • TheBrett

    It’d be a lot like watching a livestream on the NASA channel. Sure, reality shows will edit stuff down, but when 90% of your wake time is being spent either in research or work . . .

    I suppose it’s the downside of the recent boom in private space exploration. The successes of SpaceX and Bigelow mean we’re going to get a ton of vapor missions and possible scams.

  • ThirdSection

    This sounds like something straight out of a Douglas Adams book.

  • Paul451

    Agree with the premise (and with the sneaky feeling of a scam in the works), but I would like to see a decent “reality” show about astronaut training. Where the final chosen candidate actually flies to ISS for a genuine mission, not just a week long “space-tourist” hangout. (Meaning that it must really be a full training and selection program by a major space agency (such as NASA) without regard for viewers’ favourites.)

    Whittle tens of thousands of applicants down to say a thousand candidates, in twenty groups around the US (or the world) going through a brutal physical training programs, cutting down to the fittest one hundred. They go to Houston for the full NASA astronaut training, with the failures washing out, until the final ten go into training for the actual ISS mission, eventually selecting down to five who are sent to Russia for Soyuz training. Then on launch day, NASA makes the final choice. Footage of the launch, in-capsule shot of the chosen astronaut’s g-distorted face, fade to black, “And now the real challenge begins…”, end credits.

  • Bill

    Colonizing Mars with hairy fleshy humans is idiotic. Let’s learn to upload our minds to computers first and then we can colonize Mars with our minds in robotic bodies that can survive on the surface without spacesuits and bubble homes. We can’t even colonize large swaths of our own planet, and you expect us to colonize one far more extreme? Our bodies are evolved for very specific habitats, and Mars is not one of them.

  • gfish3000

    Except the whole uploading thing doesn’t really work out. I did a number of posts on the subject since the relevant computer science aspects happen to be in my area of expertise. Just give the search feature a whirl…

  • Bill

    You can’t even be bothered to paste a link?

    Even if uploading can’t work (and I see no reason why it can’t), genetic/cybernetic engineering of humans to survive on other worlds will be far easier than modifying other worlds so that humans can survive on them.

  • gfish3000

    There would be too many links to paste, really. I’d have to link to an entire category and from your reaction I take it that you would take to that poorly too.

    Also, Just because you don’t see a reason why mind uploading can’t work, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. I agree that modifying humans to be more resilient in space is the best course of action and advocated it many times here and in the articles I wrote for Discovery Space, but the idea of just zapping around the solar system in and out of robots isn’t workable unless we have something terribly, terribly wrong about biology.

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