Outlandish Mars One project goes bankrupt before reaching Red Planet

An artist’s visualization of the Mars One base on the Red Planet.

Mars One

The greatest journey in human history won’t be financed by the most ambitious reality show ever. That’s because the for-profit arm of the audacious venture known as Mars One has been dissolved by a civil court in Switzerland.

The brain child of Dutch engineer and entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, Mars One initially hoped to send test missions to Mars in 2018 to pave the way for human visitors in 2025. The whole adventure was to involve volunteer astronauts selected from the public via an “American Idol”-style public elimination process. The project’s ever-growing mix of funding sources included advertising from the television show that would follow the process, crowdfunding and more traditional investments.

Almost from the start, Mars One struggled to raise funds and astronaut candidates reported the selection process was anything but rigorous.

The craziest part of the plan was that selected Mars colonists would have no way of returning home. Mars One astronauts would be explicitly agreeing to live out their remaining days on Mars. And according to some students at MIT who took a close, critical look at the venture’s mission plans, Mars One volunteers would be lucky to make it more than two months once they arrived.

Lansdorp and Mars One refuted the criticism, but over the past four and a half years the initiative seemed to flail, making no visible progress toward a test mission of any kind. 

The bankruptcy ruling came on Jan. 15, according to a Swiss commercial register entry spotted by a Redditor. However, the social media accounts for Mars One remain active and Lansdorp told Engadget the non-profit Mars One Foundation remains open but in need of funds and he is working “to find a solution.”

Mars One and Lansdorp did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

Meanwhile, Mars One looks to be the first official casualty of the mid-2010s craze to get to the Red Planet, which Elon Musk and NASA, among others, are still pursuing in earnest.

Cartoonist Matthew Inman summed up the scheme’s demise best with the apt and timely comparison on Twitter that “Mars One Project = Interplanetary Fyre Festival.”

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