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With James Cameron planning to mine the asteroid belt and SpaceX recently having made history by docking their Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station, many are wondering just what the next few decades of space exploration will look like. Will corporately funded expeditions take us back to the moon, to Mars, and beyond? Will NASA or other governmental organizations get a surge in funding so the corporate types don't make them look bad? I have no doubt it's going to be fascinating, and likely sometimes surreal. Case in point: an independent space launch company has announced plans to put a colony on Mars by 2023, and to film it all as part of a reality show.
According to the Daily Mail, the company known as Mars One is aiming to land a four-person crew on Mars by 2023 -- and they're going there to stay (at least for a while). Assuming the initial mission is a success, the company wants to send up four more people every two years, so that there's a crew of 20 living on the Red Planet by 2033.
The Dutch company is backed by Big Brother co-creator Paul Romer, as well as Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft. With Romer involved, it's no surprise that the company wants to publicize its astronaut-selection and training process as a "media event." They claim that they're after more than just ratings and ad dollars, however. According to a Mars One statement:
We see this as a journey that belongs to us all, and it is for this reason that we will make every step one that we take together ... The entire world will be able to watch and help with decisions as the teams of settlers are selected, follow their extensive training and preparation for the mission and of course observe their settling on Mars once arrived. The emigrated astronauts will share their experiences with us as they build their new home, conduct experiments and explore Mars.
It's a bold claim, and Mars One has a lot to prove to demonstrate this is even remotely feasible, but then again when did mankind ever accomplish anything worthwhile by dreaming small? If the choice is between space-exploration-as-reality-show or no space exploration, I'll happily embrace the former. And lord knows it would be more exciting to watch than celebrity dance-offs.