January 6, 2016 8:09 pm

Boot Prints or Corpses on Mars? We Explore Mars One on StarTalk this Friday

Image depicting the first human Mars One colonists to land on Mars, courtesy of Mars One.

First Mars One colonists on Mars. Image courtesy of Mars One.

The Mars One project has been steeped in controversy since it began making news.

Is a “Cosmic Reality TV” show, as host Neil deGrasse Tyson describes it, the best way to establish humanity’s first colony on another world?

Or will Mars One be the “greatest adventure of mankind” as co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp claims on Friday’s StarTalk Radio podcast?

While Neil keeps more of an open mind about the project, StarTalk regulars Mike Massimino and Bill Nye are skeptical about the likelihood of success.

Maybe that’s because, as Bill reminds us, a recent MIT study concluded that the first Mars One astronaut will die within 68 days of launch, as the first victim of a host of known and unknown dangers.

Not that anybody expects space exploration to be entirely safe.

Mike Massimino, a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, points out that NASA figured the odds of the total loss of the Shuttle and crew for his flight at 1/75.

But the spirit of exploration, as Eugene Mirman so succinctly points out, involves the hope that you’ll come back home someday. Or, as Bill says more bluntly, “Let’s send real astronauts to Mars to leave boot prints instead of corpses.”

That said, not everyone on the show is as worried about the risk.

Ryan MacDonald, an astrophysicist pursuing his PhD at Cambridge, is one of the 100 Mars One finalists. Ryan calls in during the show, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm and hope. As he puts it, “We’re fundamental optimists who are in this to give something back to the world.”

Given that the first deployment of equipment to Mars won’t happen until 2020, it will be quite some time before we can answer Eugene’s question: “Is it a pyramid scheme, or is it sort of reasonable?”

Listen in and decide for yourself Friday, January 8th at 7pm ET on our website, iTunes Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons