With the announcement that Mars One has whittled down its candidates to 100, it looks like the project is on-track to meet its goal of sending the first humans to build a colony on the Red Planet. Neil deGrasse Tyson, however, is convinced it will fail, mostly because it will not receive the necessary funding it needs.
The astrophysicist explained private companies just don't lead the way when stakes are so high. It's possible for governments to have the same pursuits but none of the financial worries because they don't have to concern themselves with obvious return on investment immediately. Even government programs can't recruit financial backers, they can still continue because they can rely on taxpayer dollars. Private ventures like Mars One don't have this luxury.
According to Tyson, no one will be investing in a company with the goal of launching a life-threatening mission accompanied by a high risk of failing and a price tag in the billions. Even if investors can ignore the fact that the mission is dangerous and costly, they will not look away from the possibility that they might not get anything in return.
"Maybe I'm just out of it, but I just don't see a business model to sustain journeys to Mars," he said.
Mars One follows a business model that relies on gaining funding in several ways, allowing anyone interested to pitch in to achieve the goals of the project. The funding means Mars One is targeting exclusive partnerships, sales of broadcast rights, sponsorships, involving individuals with high net worth, revenues collected from intellectual property and crowdfunding.
Mars One used the Olympic games as an example to prove that the funding means the project is interested truly work. On its website, Mars One published a table detailing the revenues the Olympics generated from 1993 to 2012 for both the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics.
Basing on the billions that the Olympics makes every four-year period, it's true that relying on exclusive partnerships, sales of broadcast rights, sponsorships, involving individuals with high net worth, revenues collected from intellectual property and crowdfunding does work. Still, pitting athletes against each other to see who's the best is not the same as establishing a colony on Mars. Maybe Tyson is right but maybe Mars One will be able to pull it off. At this point, it's too soon to say how the project will turn out.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr