Irish Mars One candidate speaks out against the organisation

An Irish shortlisted candidate for a one-way ticket to Mars has spoken out against the Mars One mission, fearing its actions could damage the future of science.

Irish Mars One candidate speaks out against the organisation

Dr. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College, is in the organisation's shortlist of 100 candidates who are willing to take a journey to Mars, and never return to Earth.

Mars One is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdrop, and Dutch scientist Arno Wielders. It aims to establish a human settlement on Mars.

Roche is one of just three Irish people in the final 100.

However, since he was shortlisted, he has become aware of a number of issues with the non-profit organisation and he now believes it is hopelessly flawed and ripping off its supporters.

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to medium.com.

“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.”

Points can be redeemed a number of ways, such as purchasing merchandise or donating money, including 75% of pay received for interviews.

“If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it," they told candidates in February.  We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.”

In January, the Irish Examiner reported that candidates will have to pass a physical before March of this year, followed by a series of interviews to determine mental strength and suitability. This has not yet happened.

“I have not met anyone from Mars One in person,” Roche says.

“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.”

Roche had a short Skype conversation with Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s chief medical officer, where he was asked about the information he had been sent by the organisation the previous month. He received no medical testing.

This testing process is nothing like that conducted by NASA on its astronauts, who must complete 1,000 aircraft flight hours before being considered as training candidates for spaceflight.

Roche says he is aware of no candidate who has been subjected to a thorough examination to determine their suitability for the mission.

“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,”he says.

“That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”

Roche fears that if Mars One fails, then support for similar scientific projects will lose the public's support.

“My nightmare about it is that people continue to support it and give it money and attention, and it then gets to the point where it inevitably falls on its face,” said Roche.

"If I was somehow linked to something that could do damage to the public perception of science, that is my nightmare scenario.”

READ MORE: Irishman Roche keen to explore a new life on Mars

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