Yep, Mars One appears to be a scam

I’ve written critically about Mars One before, just evaluating their claims at face value.  But it appears that I wasn’t nearly skeptical enough.  Mars One appears to be a scam.  A Mars One “finalist” candidate explains why: Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It’s Ripping Off Supporters — Matter — Medium.

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to me in an email. “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.”

“Community members” can redeem points by purchasing merchandise like T-shirts, hoodies, and posters, as well as through gifts and donations: The group also solicits larger investment from its supporters. Others have been encouraged to help the group make financial gains on flurries of media interest. In February, finalists received a list of “tips and tricks” for dealing with press requests, which included this: “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.”

…So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.

I can’t say I’m shocked.  The initiative always seemed a bit suspicious to me, but I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t simply idealistic naive organizers, or cynical scam artists.  It’s looking more and more like the latter.  We may eventually establish a human presence on Mars, but it doesn’t seem like Mars One will have anything to do with it.

15 thoughts on “Yep, Mars One appears to be a scam

  1. As soon as I heard about Mars One, I assumed it was a gimmick. After all, given the huge amount of resources required to get to Mars, the risk, and the ongoing need for support, it was obvious this thing would never ahem fly.

    I was really shocked that there were people out there who took Mars One seriously, who thought this thing had a snowball’s chance in hell of going anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My initial reaction was much the same. But the fact that people like Elon Musk appeared to take it seriously made me wonder if there wasn’t something substantial to it after all. (My opinion on Musk’s opinions on subjects outside of rocketry is diminishing.) But from this candidate’s description, it’s hard to see that’s it’s anything other than a cynical gimmick.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I thought they were just that unrealistically idealistic at first, since space exploration does draw those kinds of romantic types. But now it’s definitely seeming scammy, albeit weird – it’s not like it’s a particularly profitable scam.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True. It’s always possible that this candidate’s impression is wrong. But given the purported extraordinary ambitions of Mars One and the distinct lack of apparent extraordinary organization or resources to accomplish it, it seems more plausible that his impression is closer to the truth than not, at least to me.

      I’d say that I’d loved to be wrong about this, but given my deep misgivings of their stated goal (marooning volunteers for life in an isolated brutal cold desolate environment), I’m not sure it’d be an honest statement.


  3. Ironically, in the NCIS episode I watched just last night, DiNozzo’s dad (the delightful Robert Wagner) tells his son that the difference between a con-man and an entrepreneur is that the latter believes in his dream, no matter how preposterous or impossible it may seem.

    It would be nice to think these folks were just misguided, that they bit off way more than they could chew (which I’ve done many times and sympathize with). But life in the modern world has made me pretty cynical…


      1. Yeah… never underestimate the attitude of someone who’s gotten a bad taste in their mouth.

        OTOH, these strange little “not what it seems” news stories do seem to have a way of growing into larger truths.

        Liked by 1 person

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