Why the Reality Show ‘Mars One’ Will Fail Before Reaching Space

what is Mars One?

‘Mars One’ is a private space project aiming to build a colony on March. The plan is to start settling people on March in ten years, 2023. The main funding would be from selling tv rights.

reality tv show mars one application


2013: A settlement replica built on a harsh environment for training
2014: Preparing supply mission launches + communication satellite.
2015: Selection of austronauts done
2016: First supply ship launched and arrived on Mars
2018: A rover sent to Mars to help explore and set up supplies
2021: Six additional supply ships sent to Mars
2022: Supply basics ready and first 4 austronauts will be launched towards Mars
2023: The first 4 colonists will set foot on Mars. Another five supply ships sent
2025: Another 4 settlers will arrive on Mars

The reality show

Mars One is aimed at becoming the largest reality show the world has ever seen. Plans are to film (and commercialize) everything from the application to the colony on Mars. Every step of the process will be transmitted and in 10 years from now they aim to reach an audience of at least 4 billion viewers. By 2025 they aim to have at least 4 cameras providing a 24/7/365 reality show of everything the colony is doing.

Application process and commercialization

The application will happen in several rounds. The first round, which is more a general interest application, attracted 78.000 people the first two weeks and they expect to attract 500.000 applications by the end of August when applications close. After gallering out the majority the remaining candidates will have to send in a medical statement followed by an interview with Mars One staff.

The third round is when the Mars One project are finished building buzz and following around the world and start making money on tv rights. They plan to launch “national selection rounds” with 20-40 people in each country putting them up to different tests and constant filming. Essentially a multi-national reality show which will be compared to “big brother” and “survivor” once it gets close.

The next round will become an “international final” multiplying viewership and creating national supporters for “their candidates”. The international rivalry will ensure a large audience and support. At the end of the final they aim to employ “six groups of four” (24 austronauts) as full time employees eventually going to Mars.


Mars One estimates that it will cost $6 billion for the project’s first four astronauts to land on Mars but are not clear what this entails claiming they can’t break down the price due to competition problems. They do not go into specifics and it seems like a very low cost for all the preparation, before the astronauts land an estimated 8 space ships will have landed with different supplies according to their plans. Even if $6 billion seems like an immense cost it’s not much for the amount of attention it will attract.

Last year’s Summer Olympics in London turned a profit of about $4 billion through TV broadcast rights and ad revenue.

Or compared to the ~18 billion NASA had in funding for 2012. Or the ~5 billion per year being paid for tv rights for the NFL.

Food and Radiation (Two Main Concerns)

Obviously the Mars One project has a lot of concerns and problems. Producing meat is very water consuming which will force the colony to become Vegans. Still producing the amount of food just to sustain the initial 4 colonists will take a giant space and many resources in the harsh climate of Mars.

Another big concern is the radiation that the colonists will be exposed to which will most likely kill them in the long run, if nothing else does first. During the flight there as well as living on Mars will expose the astronauts to dangerous rays of radiation. To escape they will need to dig themselves several meters below ground which is something the planned budget and material is far from being able to achieve.

A Few Reasons the Project Will Fail

The main income will be from selling tv rights for the various stages of the project. The plans will most certainly attract a record breaking viewership for the most important moments (e.g. landing on Mars). Incomes will be immense but to pull such a project off the costs for preparing, filming, editing, selling etc will be giant as well and require a detailed plan of expansion that I haven’t seen on their website. The main problem with the tv-show will happen after the applications are done and the austronauts have been elected. To create a good reality show you need some extreme people bending rules and expectations from the audience. For the mission to succeed the austronauts need to be serious and determined people focused on their tasks a.k.a. boring people to watch which will kill the viership apart from certain milestone events.

The second reason the Mars One project will fail is because of assumptions. There are many unanswered questions around the project that are assumed to work themselves out over the years. Assuming the project will scale, prices won’t inflate, viewership will persist over at least a decade etc. Dreams breed on assumptions but reality does not.

The third reason the project will fail is crazy people. Such a seclusion over a life-time will surely make at least some of the austronauts go crazy in their confined environment. Crazy people do crazy things such as breaking out to breed the air. A devastation the rest of the colony might not survive from.

Picture: CC-BY-NC-SA, James Vaughan

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Josef Ohlsson Collentine

A transparent and kind American/Swede who likes cultural patterns and Social Media. A creative early-adopter who sports, discusses and explores. More about me
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