For anyone not interested to go to Mars, moving permanently to Mars would be the worst kind of punishment. Most people would give an arm and a leg to be allowed to stay on Earth so it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would want to go.
Yet many people apply for Mars One’s mission and these are the people who dream about someday living on Mars. They would give up anything for the opportunity and it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would not want to go. However, not everyone who wants to fly to Mars is the right type of person to settle on Mars, therefore careful consideration must be taken when considering Mars One's astronauts.
There are multiple requirements to become a Mars One astronaut. Applicants’ characteristics must fit with those of an astronaut. Meaning the candidate needs to be:
The selection process consists of four rounds, resulting in international crews of up to six groups of four.
All candidates must submit an online application. The online application consists of general information about the applicant, a motivational letter, a resume and a one minute video in which the applicant answers some given questions and explains why he or she should be among the first humans to set foot on Mars. At this stage the potential candidates can submit their application in one of the 11 most used languages on Internet: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Indonesian, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Korean. If an applicant decides to make his or her profile public, the application videos is available to be watched on community.mars-one.com. At the end of the first selection round, a team of Mars One experts will decide which applicants will pass to the next selection round.
Mars One then narrows the remaining applicants down to Round Two candidates. These individuals need to provide a medical statement from their own physician stating that they have met all the defined requirements. Mars One's criteria for medical fitness are similar to those of NASA.
The remaining individuals will subsequently receive materials to study for general knowledge questions. Mars One's Chief Medical Officer Norbert Kraft interviews the members of this group individually about the knowledge questions and about their motivation to become part of this life-changing mission. The interviews are brief because it does not require a lot of time to determine which candidate is not suitable to fly to Mars. Therefore, the following selection rounds will be focused on determining who has what it takes to settle on Mars. The remaining candidates will have shown that they are healthy, smart, and dedicated.
The third round is an international selection round. The 100 candidates who make it into this third selection round will participate in indoor and outdoor group challenges to test their ability to work in a team within limited conditions, interdependency, trust, their problem-solving and creativity skills, their thoroughness and precision, and their clarity and relevance of communication. The candidates’ knowledge of in advance provided study materials is essential to progress in the challenges. Candidates are eliminated based on their behavior both inside and outside the group challenges.
Forty remaining Round Four Candidates will begin the isolation portion of the screening process. The results of the isolation challenge will reduce the forty candidates down to thirty who will then undergo the Mars Settler Suitability Interview.
From the first selection series, up to six groups of four will become full time employees of Mars One, after which they will start training for the mission. Whole teams and individuals might be selected out during training if they prove unsuitable for the mission.
A new group of four astronauts will land on Mars every 26 months, steadily increasing the settlement’s size. Eventually, a living unit will be built from local materials, large enough to grow trees. As more astronauts arrive, the creativity applied to settlement expansion will certainly give way to ideas and innovation that cannot be conceived now. But it can be expected that the human spirit will continue to persevere, and even thrive in this challenging environment.
Mars One’s teams of prospective Mars inhabitants will be prepared for the mission by participating full time in an extensive training program. This will be their full time, paid job. The training is split up into three programs: technical training, personal training, and group training.
The astronauts will be required to learn many new skills and gain proficiency in a wide variety of disciplines. At least two astronauts must be proficient in the use and repair of all equipment in order to be able to identify and solve technical problems.
At least two astronauts will receive extensive medical training in order to be able to treat minor and critical health problems, including first aid and use of the medical equipment that will accompany them to Mars. At least one person will train in studies on Mars geology while another will gain expertise in 'exobiology', the biology of alien life. Other specialties like physiotherapy, psychology, and electronics will be shared among the four astronauts in each of the initial groups.
Mars One will ensure that in each group, at least two crew members will be trained in each essential skill-set in case a member becomes ill. Their training and preparations will take place between their admittance to the program, and the start of their journey to Mars.
As the population on Mars increases, each new arrival will be able to bring with him or her an area of expertise. In time, this will reduce astronaut training time and requirements.
The ability of astronauts to cope with the difficult living environment on Mars will be an important selection criteria. For example, an astronauts’ mobility will be restricted for a long period of time, and they will no longer be able to speak to friends and family on Earth face-to-face (read here how they can communicate with people on Earth). They will be able to receive psychological assistance from Earth if they wish, via long-range communications. The astronauts will initially be chosen for their inherent ability to cope with these situations, and will receive training on how to deal with them most effectively.
Group training will take place in the form of simulation missions. A simulation mission is an extensive, fully immersive exercise that prepares the astronauts for the real mission to Mars. The simulated environment will invoke as many of the Mars conditions as possible. Immediately after selection, the groups will participate in these simulations for a few months per year. During simulations, astronauts will only be able to leave the base when wearing their Mars suits. They will have to take care of their water supply and keep the life support systems up and running. They must also cultivate their own food, and all communications with the outside world will be artificially delayed by twenty minutes.
There will be several simulation bases, some easy to access for early stage, while others will be located in a harsh environments on Earth, providing realistic desert terrain and drastically cold conditions. These trials will demonstrate whether they are suitable for all elements of the task ahead. Can the astronauts keep the group functioning? Will they keep a cool head when confronted with a challenge? Can they effectively and efficiently solve given and uprising problems?
The flight will take between seven to eight months (depending upon the relative positions of the Earth and Mars). The astronauts will spend those seven months together in a very small space—much smaller than the home base at the settlement on Mars—devoid of luxury or frills. This will not be easy. Showering with water will not be an option. Instead the astronauts make do with wet towelettes (wet wipes) as used by astronauts on the International Space Station.
Freeze dried and canned food is the only option. There will be constant noise from the ventilators, computers, and life support systems, and a regimented routine of three hours of daily exercise in order to maintain muscle mass. If the astronauts are hit by a solar storm, they must take refuge in the even smaller, sheltered area of the rocket which provides the best protection, for up to several days.
The journey will be arduous, pressing each of them to the very limits of their training and personal capacity. However, the astronauts will endure because this will be the flight carrying them to their dream.
Once they arrive on Mars, the astronauts will begin making use of their relatively spacious living units; over 50 m2 per person, and a total of more than 200 m2 combined interior space.
Within the settlement are inflatable components which contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a 'plant production unit', where they will grow greenery. They will also be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food (that they themselves grew and harvested) in the kitchen, wear regular clothes, and, in essence, lead typical day-to-day lives.
If the astronauts leave the settlement, they have to wear a Mars suit. However, all living spaces are connected by passageways, in order for the astronauts to move freely from one end of the settlement to the other. As the rovers have done much of the heavy construction prior to their arrival, it will not take the astronauts a long time to find routine in their new life, moving into carrying out valuable construction works and research.
Several new components will be delivered to Mars while the first group of four astronauts are settled. In preparation of the arrival of the second group of four astronauts, the components will include a second living unit and a second life support unit. With use of the rovers, the astronauts will connect these units to the main base. When this task has been performed, the first crew has prepared the settlement for the arrival of additional astronauts, and, in the meantime, the astronauts will enjoy more room for themselves and extra safety as the duplicate living environments provide back-up life support systems.
When the second crew of astronauts lands, the first crew will have already applied technology and physical labor to the construction of additional living and working spaces, using local materials. Mars One is working on concepts, such as the inclusion of tunnels and domes made from compressed Martian soil, which may be able to hold a breathable atmosphere for the astronauts to live in.
There will be a great deal of research conducted on Mars. The astronauts will research how their bodies respond and change when living in a 38% gravitational field, and how food crops and other plants grow in hydroponic plant production units. Research will include extra-settlement exploration to learn about the ancient and current geology on Mars. Of course, much research will be dedicated to determine if life was once present or currently exists on Mars.
The astronauts will not only submit routine reports, but will also share all that they enjoy and find challenging. It will give the people on Earth a unique and personal insight view of life on Mars. They could answer intriguing questions like: What is it like to walk on Mars? How do you feel about your fellow astronauts after a year? What is it like living in the reduced Mars’ gravity? What is your favorite food? Do you enjoy the sunsets on Mars?