Current Mars100 Finalists refute Elmo Keep’s Mars One “conspiracy theory.”
By: numerous Mars100 candidates.
What this is: Mars100 Facebook Candidates penned a rebuttal to Elmo’s most recent post about her Mars One conspiracy; then a personal response by Mars100 candidate LCDR Oscar Mathews. Because facts.
This is a reaction to the article by Elmo Keep https://medium.com/matter/mars-one-insider-quits-dangerously-flawed-project-2dfef95217d3
This is not an article designed to manipulate your opinion. This is a collection of information that was conveniently omitted in an article that does aim to manipulate your opinion. It is provided so that you can form your own opinion with complete information at your disposal.
1. “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.”
- They kindly ask. That is all they do. The candidates are not under contract to give any money to Mars One. They have no way of enforcing this request. This is simply a polite request asking them to continue their support of Mars One, as they are now very close to being part of their project. This request, along with gentle advice given to assist non-media savvy candidates, was additionally covered by an NDA, signed by all the Mars100.
- The public’s interest is generated by Mars One and their project, making any profit coming from interviews done by the candidates logically tied to MO. However given previous experience, it is unlikely any of the candidates will be offered payment.
2. “Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.”
- The media are reporting a lot of things about Mars One. It would not be the first time when their information was inaccurate or misleading. Even though it would be desirable that Mars One corrected every false statement, they cannot be held responsible for how the media interpret and phrase their reports about Mars One.
- The fact of the matter is, Mars One reported that 202, 586 began the application. That is the statement that is true. Whether they completed the application process to the video stage may be where you begin to see different numbers.
3. “… some leading contenders for the mission had bought their way into that position, and are being encouraged to “donate” any appearance fees back to Mars One — which seemed to him very strange for an outfit that needs billions of dollars to complete its objective.”
- There are no “leading contenders” at this point. The point system you see on the website is nothing more than a collection of “achievements” based on how far the community member advanced through the selection process or how much money they contributed through donations or purchases. Like many online communities, Mars One uses “badges” to encourage engagement. The points awarded have nothing to do with a candidates selection status. So although it is accurate to say they’ve “bought” their points with donations, these points do not influence their standing as far as the selection process goes. There are many candidates in the final 100 who have not donated anything to Mars One except for the initial application fee, and have, perhaps, bought themselves a T-shirt.
- The Guardian story can be easily dis-proven by the most cursory of checks on the “supporter points” Mars100 semi-finalists have. Many of the Mars100 have the bare minimum, and others chose not to even show their total.
4. “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.”
- You do get a tiny amount of points and a badge. It is called ‘gamification’ and is designed to provide fun and engagement to the participant. Non-candidates also get badges for their participation in supporting Mars One.
- The following links describe what the badges represent and how the supported points will be used in the future:
5. “I have not met anyone from Mars One in person,” he said. “Initially they’d said there were going to be regional interviews… we would travel there, we’d be interviewed, we’d be tested over several days, and in my mind that sounded at least like something that approached a legitimate astronaut selection process.
“But then they made us sign a non-disclosure agreement if we wanted to be interviewed, and then all of a sudden it changed from being a proper regional interview over several days to being a 10-minute Skype call.”
- We were told that the interviews would be online in November 2014, a month prior to signing the non-disclosure agreement. The deadline to sign was December 6th (2 days prior to the first interview), so there was no ‘sudden change’.
- Mars One is only half-way through their selection process. It would have consumed inordinate amounts of time and money to go through rigorous testing for 660 Round 2 candidates. The psychology and capabilities of each individual will be tested in Round 3 and subsequently in Round 4 for those advancing further.
- The testing that will be done during Rounds 3 and 4 will be narrowing down the number of candidates from 100 to 24 or less to enter training — a number comparable to the number of astronauts that enter NASA training at any one time.
- There will, indeed, be face-to-face meetings, instruction, and testing for the Mars 100 this fall. There are now several videos available freely through the internet where Norbert Kraft discusses the logic behind the online interviews.
6. “Roche said he then had a short Skype conversation with Mars One’s chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, during which he was quizzed with questions from literature about Mars and the mission that Mars One had provided to all the applicants. No rigorous psychological or psychometric testing was part of the appraisal.”
- Dr. Kraft is a psychologist, and one with extensive experience in the field. It would be safe to assume that Dr. Kraft has more insight into the psychological testing done through the interview than the candidates do (http://www.mars-one.com/about-mars-one/team/norbert-kraft).
- In the video interviews released after the Round 3 announcement, Dr. Kraft explains the psychological underpinnings of his questions. They were designed to assess certain traits quickly, given that Dr. Kraft had to interview over 600 candidates (see video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg8aojgMKgM and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfb9h5mbNTg )
- Only 2 of the total 4 selection rounds have taken place thus far. Rounds 3 and 4 are more geared towards psychological evaluation. Of course, the 8 years of intensive training, including a simulated environment, will be even more crucial in identifying the suitable candidates. It is a mistake to think of 2 selection rounds in an entire process spanning nearly a decade as representative of the process as a whole.
7. “Mars One’s testing methods fall well short of NASA’s stringent astronaut corps requirements — not least in the case of anyone who would be training to be the mission commander, the individual who would actually pilot a theoretical craft to Mars. Commanders at NASA are required to have logged 1,000 jet aircraft flight hours to even be considered as training candidates for spaceflight.”
- The Mars One project is very different to a typical NASA mission, and therefore has very different requirements for its astronaut candidates. The Mars One candidates would be primarily colonists, not pilots. It is likely that course corrections and landing procedures will be automated — for uncrewed as well as crewed spacecraft.
- There will be 10 years of training between selection and launch, which absolutely does compare to NASA’s level and depth of training. This training might cover emergency manual control of spacecraft if applicable.
- Astronaut candidates train for typically 2 years in a variety of space related fields before their mission specific training. This is after a typical career path consisting of a PhD (if mission specialists), a “semi-required” scuba cert, and 1500+ hours of fix-wing or rotary-wing time (if pilots)(normally as Test Pilot School — TPS — graduates).
- MarsOne candidates have not yet entered training, but it will be similar in scope from what we know to NASA AsCan training, and will last 8 years total. MarsOne candidates also incude PhD’s, scuba certified individuals and pilots, but also those without technical backgrounds
8. ““That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”
- Of course not. It only serves to judge whether it is worth investing more time and money into evaluating a candidate further. Which is why the selection process will go through two additional, much more thorough and in-person, selection rounds.
- Dr. Kraft’s criteria for selecting the 100: https://youtu.be/Pg8aojgMKgM (00:00:30 -00:10:09)
- The interviews max time limit was estimated at 15 minutes, since Dr. Kraft had to interview 663 individuals across the planet. Some candidates finished in less time, due to various reasons.
9. “But some cracks are emerging now. Reports emerged that the contract with the TV production company Endemol — which Mars One claimed could bring in up to $6 billion in revenue — was no longer in place and that the companies had gone their separate ways.”
- The primary source of finance is to be an investment firm in the first stages of the mission (leading up to and including the first manned mission). The documentary and live broadcast aspects of the project are expected to bring in revenue at later stages of the project. Mars One is in talks with both an investment firm and a new production company to take over the documentary aspect of the project.
- Collaboration with Endemol was reportedly ended as they were unable to reach an agreement over the terms of the contract.
- The $6 billion in revenue was never stated to be entirely funded from one source.
10. “And last month the Nobel laureate and theoretical physicist Gerard ’t Hooft — previously listed as an “advisor” to the project — put a realistic timeframe for a crewed mission to Mars at 100 years from now, not 10.”
- Gerard ‘t Hooft did indeed express some skepticism. He is one of the many members of the international scientific community whose opinions should be taken into account.
- Prof ‘t Hooft was never listed as an adviser to the project. He is still listed as an ambassador. (http://www.mars-one.com/about-mars-one/ambassadors)
Bonus: Our problem with people who accuse Mars One of being a scam or conspiracy is that they make no case for it.
- Scam implies profit. If Mars One is a scam, show who you think is getting rich.
- Conspiracy implies illegality and/or harm. Show who is being cheated/harmed when all of the candidates are participating voluntarily and are aware of the low probability of success?
My Personal Response:
That rascally Elmo Keep is at it again. What Joe was quoted is correct (despite his Confidentiality violation), and he is entitled to his opinion on Astronaut selection, though many would defer to Dr. Kraft, a published clinical psychologist M.D. in crew selection for both NASA and JAXA, with many years experience in the field of flight medicine. Elmo, however, distorts both the easily dis-proven Guardian article, and her own tortured interpretation of Roche’s words.
I’ll just say this before presenting my positive article on why humans should safely strive for space:
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
-Sir Winston Churchill (paraphrasing Mark Twain)
Who is MarsOne and the Mars100? (taken from my longer article)
As many already know, MarsOne is the non-profit Dutch foundation co-founded by CEO Bas Lansdorp and CTO Arno Weilders that intends to raise money and accomplish the first private space colonization attempt on Mars in 2027, when the first team of 4 colonists is slated to land. Well-received initially in the press, a series of missteps in public relations has MarsOne competing with vocal detractors who claim the mission concept is flawed on its face. With their soon-to-be published Paragon Space Environmental Engineering and Life Support System (ECLSS) engineering study, MarsOne hopes to quell any anxiety from the past few months and show the world that it is not afraid to take some constructive criticism and improve its initial plan in a series of iterative changes. MarsOne, more than anyone, wants the first crewed mission to Mars to be as successful and as safe as possible.
From an initial applicant pool of 202,586 individuals who began their application (consisting of a 70 sec video answering three questions about their rationale for going, and a short series of psychological and personality questionnaires), MarsOne weeded out candidates who did not take the mission to settle another planet seriously and selected down to 1,058 Round 2 applicants. The down-select to 663 applicants occurred after a medical screening similar to a Class III FAA medical examination, (which surprisingly revealed some candidates with cancer, potentially saving their lives), and full, public access to their application videos. The most recent semi-final Mars100 selection occurred after being given multiple sources of technical and press release information about the mission and being told to memorize the knowledge elements for a personal 15 minute interview with Dr. Norbert Kraft, MD, JAXA initial candidate and NASA long-duration group selection expert. Once Dr. Kraft had interviewed all 663 candidates on technical knowledge retention and public speaking ability, a decision was made in committee to select just 100 individuals to move on in the selection round. The information to be memorized included temperature bands, Mars seasonal variations, radiation levels, shielding levels, planetary parameters, prior-year science missions and outcomes since the 1960 Korabl missions, percent success rates for countries attempting missions to Mars, pillars of the MarsOne mission, geological history of Mars and much more.
The Mars100 are an amazing group to learn about, as we discuss various viewpoints within the much broader space colonization discussion. The mars-one.com website relays that, “39 came from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania.”
The graphic below shows the Mars100 to be a geographically-distributed bunch, with many candidates coming from remote parts of the world. 
“In each region, plans include (10–15) applicants participating in challenges including rigorous simulations, many in team settings, with focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities of the remaining candidates, with the aim of demonstrating their suitability to become the first humans on Mars.” 
Six groups of four will be selected to continue training as full-time employees of MarsOne’s astronaut corps. Whole teams or individuals may be dropped from training and asked to restart their training process from the beginning if the team dynamics do not pan out for the long-term. What differentiates MarsOne from a typical NASA selection process, where individual education or flight test experience prior to cohort selection and the typical ‘Type A’ personality is weighed more heavily, is MarsOne’s focus on pure teamwork and lifetime team research potential. The final group of 24 (or perhaps more) and the first four to go to Mars will have had 8 years of training to prepare them, which allows people without strictly science backgrounds to apply and succeed. The whole world will be watching and supporting them when the first privately-supported, international team lands in 2027*. (*subject to change)
Reasons why it may not happen:
There are many critiques against MarsOne. Some critiques, like in any highly publicized event, are there simply to provide the appearance of a valid counterpoint. For example, in one televised interview done in the Miami broadcast area (en Español), a NASA engineer attempted to refute some MarsOne mission plan elements by saying we would never get to Mars until we could land 40 metric tons on the surface. This is not true. Yet he receives airtime because he works at NASA, and of course they have their nascent “Mars missions begin on the ISS” agenda to promote . I was not given a chance to comment on his claims, but that is A-OK because the mission plans both speak for themselves. The reason NASA’s will cost the US taxpayers 100 billion (and more) is because they believe the return launch structure (to get the astronauts back) is a hard requirement for the mission. Such “flags and footprints” mentality (as Dr. Zubrin writes) for the space exploration effort is what distinguishes MarsOne as a true colonization effort with feasible mass-to-surface goals versus NASA’s outrageous “PR and parades” campaign.
If you want to spend billions (let alone hundreds of billions) to get to the planet’s surface, then you should plan a mission based on science return instead of getting a photo-op, high-fiving and then leaving for your medal at The White House.
Of course, some negative critiques are jumping on the space colonization bandwagon to use media to promote their own purposes, much like people who dance behind the camera during live TV coverage. This is a serious affair — people’s lives are at risk. My life and my team’s life may be at risk. But that risk can be reduced to manageable levels through prudent risk mitigation strategies, while keeping to a reasonable schedule.
Read in full at: https://medium.com/p/lcdr-oscar-mathews-wants-to-go-to-mars-and-why-you-should-too-357cc9156495
Link to Dr. Kraft’s Post-Interview Video:
Bas’ Video Update March 2015:
Dr. Norbert Kraft’s Select-out criteria:
Link to all Mars 100:
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Dr. Zubrin’s “The Secret Story of Planet Mars” (2014):
Cody’s MarsOne Mission in Kerbal (for funsies):
MIT REPORT — MLOG Program Clarification Letter:
Reddit AMA Response:
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