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.