TECH
20/03/2015 11:21 GMT | Updated 20/03/2015 11:59 GMT

Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp Defends Mission But Admits Possibility Of 'Delays'

The head of the Mars One project to send volunteer astronauts to live and die on the Red Planet by 2027 has responded to claims by one of its candidates that the mission is hopelessly flawed.

In an article on Medium.com, Dr. Joseph Roche, one of the finalists to travel on the first Mars One mission, claimed that:

Roche said that the “only way” to get selected for the next round of the Mars One candidacy process was to donate money. “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,” Roch told Elmo Keep for Medium.

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

But now Mars One’s Lansdorp has said that any claims candidates were selected based on “how much money they donate” are “simply untrue”.

In a video statement and written interview he said that while Mars One “really value good criticism”, the “recent bad press” was merely “sensational”.

“The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.”

Lansdorp also defended the mission’s claim that it can get humans to Mars for just $6 billion - a figure most argue is unfeasible.

“Our $6 billion cost figure comes from good discussions that we have had with established aerospace companies from around the world. They have already been building systems for the ISS and for unmanned missions to Mars, which are similar to the ones we need. We are very confident that our budget will be enough.”

However he also admitted that the mission timeline has already slipped by two years - and said is first crew could be as much as eight years late.

“Is it really a failure if we land our first crew two, four, six, or even eight years late? I would be extremely proud if we could make that happen and Mars One is still fully committed to keeping that on track.”

Lansdorp also said the project has no deal in place with broadcasters — a problem, given that it aims to raise most of its required billions through TV revenue.

“We were very close to a deal with Endemol owned Darlow Smithson productions but in the end the deal fell apart on final details in the contract and therefore Mars One ended that cooperation. We have worked with a new production company since November of last year. They are currently selling the documentary series to an international broadcaster. There is no deal in place yet but it is looking very promising and there is a lot of interest.”

On funding and delays:

“Unfortunately, the paper work of that deal is taking much longer than we expected. I now think that it will be completed before the summer of this year, which means that we will not be in time to finance the follow up studies that Lockheed Martin needs to do for our first unmanned mission in 2018. This unfortunately means that we will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027.”