Mars One has 78,000 applicants so far—sort of

Mars One

Mars One is planning a permanent human settlement on Mars within ten years, and plans to use a unique astronaut selection process open to the public. (credit: Mars One/Bryan Versteeg)

Mars One, the private venture with the audacious goal of sending humans to Mars—permanently—as early as 2023 made a splash earlier this week when it announced that more than 78,000 people had applied for its “astronaut selection program” just two weeks after starting to accept applications. The application process, revealed by the company on April 22, includes paying a registration fee that varies by nation ($38 in the US) as well as providing, as Mars One explained, “personal information about the applicant, a motivational letter, answers to a fixed questionnaire, a resume and an one minute video in which the applicant explains why he or she should be among the first humans on Mars.”

Given the requirement to provide that much information, as well as pay a fee, many were extremely impressed that Mars One had attracted that many applications so quickly. The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, noted that Mars One could have raised several million dollars based on application fees alone, and they’re not the only ones doing that fiscal math. However, those estimates, and that overall application number, require something of an asterisk.

The same day that Mars One made the announcement, I spoke with Bas Lansdorp, the co-founder and CEO of Mars One, at the Humans 2 Mars Summit, a conference in Washington organized by the space advocacy group Explore Mars. I asked him about the 78,000 figure and whether that means that all of these people have completed the application process, including paying the application fee. “I don’t know exactly what the distribution is,” he said. “People register, they pay, they start filling out their information, they have the movie to make, the movie to upload,” he said, which is then reviewed and made public if the applicant chooses to do so. “I think we have something like 700 movies online or so.” (A check of the Mars One application web site appeared to show, as of Thursday evening, about 570 videos available, based on the pagination of the videos on the site: 57 pages of 10 per page.)

So what does the 78,000 figure in the announcement represent? “It’s people who have at least done the first step,” he said. That appears to be to go to this page, which asks for only a few pieces of information: an email address, password, birth date, and country of residence. After completing the form, you’re prompted to check your email for a confirmation message; clicking on the link in that message takes you to a page asking you to pay the registration fee before proceeding with the rest of the application.

It wouldn’t be surprising, then, that there’s a sharp dropoff between those who simply complete the initial registration form and those who actually do pay (anywhere from $5 to $73, depending on the per capita GDP of the applicant’s nation). The fee serves a useful purpose by screening out those who aren’t that serious about applying, as well as providing revenue to cover the costs of the application review process. But if, as Lansdorp said, the 78,000 covers only those who completed that initial (and free) registration step, it’s a little misleading to say that 78,000 have applied, since that implies that they have all completed the registration process. Lansdorp said on Tuesday he didn’t know the breakdown of the numbers in the steps between the 78,000 who registered and the several hundred who had uploaded videos.

Lansdorp is, though, very pleased with the public response to the campagn, the first step in a long process to select the first four-person crew that Mars One plans to launch in 2022. “We were expecting half a million at the end,” he said, referring to the August 31 deadline for submitting an application. “To have already now a very good portion of that is actually quite surprising to me.”

22 comments to Mars One has 78,000 applicants so far—sort of

  • Andy

    Thanks for reporting this correctly, most others reported 78,000 (full) applicants.

  • railmeat

    Hi Jeff, thanks for doing some actual reporting on this. I hope Mars-One succeeds, but there seems to be good reason for a bit of skepticism about them.

    Matt

  • Phil Stooke

    Let’s face it, even if it was thousands of people, they are really applying to be in a TV show. Most would chicken out (or get voted out) long before Mars!

  • Andy

    I was considering applying, however, my concern is that on the long list of board of directors, the only 2 people on the team with any space experience is a single payload manager, and a guy who builds rockets in their free time.

    Half of management is completely expendable, and are probably just hitching a free publicity ride (there is an editorial Manager, Marketing manager, and communications specialist).

    I think those who actually are interested in the mission would be better off forming their own group, which is run by scientists (who understand physics), than a team run 50% by marketing.

  • Brendan

    The reality is …
    They have NO one on the team capable of doing this. They don’t have any money or funding, let alone any experience in this endeavor whatsoever. This would be one of the largest undertaking humans have faced so far… and all they have is a marketing team..

    Yet they are accepting cash from people who want to apply to be an astronaut..

    A scam to milk people of money, pure and simple. And that SUCKS.
    Because it will sour people’s image of a real Mars mission.

    These people are willing to destroy people image of what could be the greatest adventure humans have ever taken, so they can line their own pockets.
    Disgusting.

  • James Lindsay

    I can’t actually see this getting any further than somebody making millions on the latest three seasons of some typical low-quality/low-budget “Hillbilly TV”.

    What a crock.

  • Bob

    Yes, I’m pretty sure the registration fee does not go towards paying the cost to review the application but rather straight to the swindlers pocket.

  • [...] to pay a fee and upload a video expressing why he or she wants to go to Mars permanently. NewSpace Journal recently interviewed Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp and asked him about the 78,000 [...]

  • Stuart

    Cash flow crisis predicted to hit around 2015!!!!

    Oh well it beats working for a living.

  • John

    Some of you got it wrong, though. There is nothing too challenging about actually flying to Mars. The hard part, as some have already said, is getting good astronauts and the FUNDING. Disappointing that Mars one would lie about application numbers. OBVIOUSLY, the overwhelmingly large majority of those “registered” will NEVER apply.

    • True John, I went to the site, but when I found out they want to rip me off to the tune of $38, I said see ya. And I assume that’s what all except the dumbest will do. So they’ll have a pool of the dumbest to pick from. Maybe Mars, therefore will be like the film Idiocracy (,’-p)

  • [...] everyone seems to be reporting that figure, New Space Journal suggests that number is [...]

  • [...] from the Fox News website. After I threw up in my mouth a little bit I headed on over to NewSpace Journal and the actual mission website. There I found two interesting facts. One, the mission had over [...]

  • Aresia

    The real question is: will someone with a big fat bank balance come in and bankroll this project. If they do, I can see this succeeding by becoming a reality TV programme running across the planet – that itself could raise billions of dollars over maybe 5 years in sponsorship advertising and so on.

  • Gabriel

    Im a bit surprised about what i m reading here. Mars one is indeed just a team of managers and other non scientific people though there are plans made which are exposed on youtube .Furthermore they exactly mention how they are going to do this ,for example : Costs will be coverd with the world wide media event (social online stream of the whole mission) .That is realistic if you think of how much it cost to steam a comercial on the super bowl.
    greetings from germany.

  • Stuart

    China appear to have accused Mars One of being a scam!

    Well thats according to the Space.com story at…

    http://www.space.com/21270-private-mars-colony-scam-china.html

    Has the bubble just burst…!

  • [...] completed applications. Recall back in May that Mars One claimed to have 78,000 applicants, when the information on their web site, in the form of publicly-visible videos from applicants—a key st…. Right now, there are fewer than 1,400 videos on the web site—139 pages of 10 videos each. [...]

  • [...] completed applications. Recall back in May that Mars One claimed to have 78,000 applicants, when the information on their web site, in the form of publicly-visible videos from applicants—a key st…. Right now, there are fewer than 1,400 videos on the web site—139 pages of 10 videos each. [...]

  • […] when Mars One claimed it had already received 78,000 applications, this publication reported that the actual number was likely only a few percent of that, based on the number of applicant videos available on the Mars One website. That ratio appeared to […]

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    This will cause the Sim to set the book on the ground. Although I never would’ve believed this two years
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