Off World: First Human Colonist for Mars


 Image: Live Long And Prosper by Tom Estes Digital map of all the known galaxies in the universe projected onto the artist’s right hand. The artists work was first shown at All The Worlds Futures: The 2015 Venice Biennale. The hand is in a salute which first appeared in popular culture through the television series  Star Trek. But this salute has nuch older origins. It turns out it is an ancient priestly blessing that forms the Hebrew letter Shin.

Fancy a one-way ticket to another planet where there is no air, no water or food – and certainly no return home? Want to help settle Mars? Human settlement on Mars is possible with today’s existing technologies and the Mars One mission plans to integrates components that are well tested and readily available from industry leaders worldwide.

Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that intends to settle the infamous Red Planet using this readily available technology by 2023. And people are already lining up for this unprecedented adventure.  After only a week live, 20,000 people joined the queue to be one of the lucky individuals to help settle Mars. And the brainchild behind the movement is expecting many more applicants even though the privately-financed plan does not involve a return journey because of the technical difficulty and cost of equipping and fuelling the trip home.

Come 2023 four people will blast off on a 200-day journey to Mars to establish a human colony on that planet. Should you be one of the four selected by Mars One for its mission, you will be amongst the first to attempt to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet. Once on Mars, there is no means to return to Earth. Mars is home. Some may feel intimidated by this daunting challenge, but there are people across the world who are clearly not, since they have sent applications to  be part of its mission.

The deadline to apply is August 31st. So what are they looking for? According to the Mars One astronaut breakdown, they are looking for: Resiliency, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to Trust, and Creativity/Resourcefulness. They also are only considering candidates over the age of 18, although nationality is not an issue. The main language of the process will be English, but that will not be a deciding factor.



Your thought processes are persistent.

You persevere and remain productive.

You see the connection between your internal and external self.

You are at your best when things are at their worst.

You have indomitable spirit.

You understand the purpose of actions may not be clear in the moment, but there is good reason—you trust those who guide you.

You have a “Can do!” attitude.


You adapt to situations and individuals, while taking into account the context of the situation.

You know your boundaries, and how/when to extend them.

You are open and tolerant of ideas and approaches different from your own.

You draw from the unique nature of individual cultural backgrounds.


You ask questions to understand, not to simply get answers.

You are transferring knowledge to others, not simply showcasing what you know or what others do not.

Ability to Trust

You trust in yourself and maintain trust in others.

Your trust is built upon good judgment.

You have self-informed trust.

Your reflection on previous experiences helps to inform the exchange of trust.

Creativity / Resourcefulness

You are flexible in how an issue / problem / situation is approached.

You are not constrained by the way you were initially taught when seeking solutions.

Your humor is a creative resource, used appropriately as an emerging contextual response.

You have a good sense of play and spirit of playfulness.

You are aware of different forms of creativity.

If selected you have to travel more than 200 days to reach your destination, during which you eat only canned food, and cannot take a shower. You will share a confined space with three people who are neither old friends nor family.  And those who you have already left behind will be in full knowledge that they will never see you again because this, you see, is a one-way trip. And when you reach the end of your voyage, you can’t be entirely sure of what awaits you on Mars. And all of this is just a teaser of what you would have to deal with.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy 


The dust storms of the Mars are the largest in the solar system, capable of blanketing the entire red planet and lasting for months. And the seasons that Mars experiences are more extreme than Earth’s because the red planet’s elliptical, oval-shaped orbit around the sun is more elongated than that of any of the other major planets.

The red planet is home to both the highest mountain and the deepest, longest valley in the solar system. Olympus Mons is roughly 17 miles (27 kilometers) high, about three times as tall as Mount Everest, while the Valles Marineris system of valleys — named after the Mariner 9 probe that discovered it in 1971 — can go as deep as 6 miles (10 kilometers) and runs east-west for roughly 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers), about one-fifth of the distance around Mars and close to the width of Australia or the distance from Philadelphia to San Diego.

Mars has the largest volcanoes in the solar system, including Olympus Mons, which is about 370 miles (600 kilometers) in diameter, wide enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico. It is a shield volcano, with slopes that rise gradually like those of Hawaiian volcanoes, and was created by eruptions of lavas that flowed for long distances before solidifying. Mars also has many other kinds of volcanic landforms, from small, steep-sided cones to enormous plains coated in hardened lava. Some minor eruptions might still occur on the planet.

Channels, valleys, and gullies are found all over Mars, and suggest that liquid water might have flowed across the planet’s surface in recent times. Some channels can be 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide and 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) long. Water may still lie in cracks and pores in underground rock.

Many regions of Mars are flat, low-lying plains. The lowest of the northern plains are among the flattest, smoothest places in the solar system, potentially created by water that once flowed across the Martian surface. The northern hemisphere mostly lies at a lower elevation than the southern hemisphere, suggesting the crust may be thinner in the north than in the south. This difference between the north and south might be due to a very large impact shortly after the birth of Mars.

The number of craters on Mars varies dramatically from place to place, depending on how old the surface is. Much of the surface of the southern hemisphere is extremely old, and so has many craters – including the planet’s largest, 1,400-mile-wide (2,300-kilometer-wide) Hellas Planitia — while that of northern hemisphere is younger and so has fewer craters. Some volcanoes have few craters, which suggests they erupted recently, with the resulting lava covering up any old craters. Some craters have unusual-looking deposits of debris around them resembling solidified mudflows, potentially indicating that impactor hit underground water or ice. 


Image: Watchers by Tom Estes

Mars Composition  & Structure

Atmospheric composition (by volume)
95.32 percent carbon dioxide, 2.7 percent nitrogen, 1.6 percent argon, 0.13 percent oxygen, 0.08 percent carbon monoxide, minor amounts of water, nitrogen oxide, neon, hydrogen-deuterium-oxygen, krypton, xenon

Magnetic Field
Mars currently has no global magnetic field, but there are regions of its crust that can be at least 10 times more strongly magnetized than anything measured on Earth, remnants of an ancient global magnetic field.

Chemical composition
Mars likely has a solid core composed of iron, nickel, and sulfur. The mantle of Mars is probably similar to Earth’s in that it is composed mostly of peridotite, which is made up primarily of silicon, oxygen, iron, and magnesium. The crust is probably largely made of the volcanic rock basalt, which is also common in the crusts of the Earth and the moon, although some crustal rocks, especially in the northern hemisphere, may be a form of andesite, a volcanic rock that contains more silica than basalt does.

Internal structure
Scientists think that on average, the Martian core is about 1,800 and 2,400 miles in diameter (3,000 and 4,000 kilometers), its mantle is about 900 to 1,200 miles (5,400 to 7,200 kilometers) wide and its crust is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) thick.

Orbit & Rotation

Average Distance from the Sun

English: 141,633,260 miles

Metric: 227,936,640 km

By Comparison: 1.524 times that of Earth

Perihelion (closest)

English: 128,400,000 miles

Metric: 206,600,000 km

By Comparison: 1.404 times that of Earth

Aphelion (farthest)

English: 154,900,000 miles

Metric: 249,200,000 km

By Comparison: 1.638 times that of Earth

(Source: NASA.)


To put your name into the hat, all you have to do is visit the applicant section of the Mars One website. It’s a global effort, and video-based. You can rate people’s videos and see who’s ranking highest. Anybody over the age of 18 can apply at this stage. Globally, the most number of applicants are from the US, although they want the pool of people to be as diverse as possible. Among other qualities that you would require to proceed to the later stages, a sense of humour is most essential.

The newly formed Interplanetary Media Group (IMG) is a for-profit company, meaning they will help finance this amazing endeavour by selling company shares (while still holding a majority) and by also selling ad time for when the show is produced and aired. They are in charge of the licensing of the Mars One intellectual property assets. The mission itself is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp who sold his majority stake in a wind energy company in 2011 to launch his dream project. The basic premise of Mars One is that the technology to send people to Mars, and enable them to settle there already exists, and just needs to be purchased, put together and tested. The selection of the astronauts will be in four stages, with the tens of thousands whittled down to between 24 and 40 by 2015. From this round onwards, the rest of the process, including training, will be televised and broadcast. The estimated $6-billion cost of the mission will be part-funded with revenues from this years-long reality show, with the rest coming from investors and sponsors.

And in case Mars does not sound exciting enough for you, efforts are already on to crowd-research a manned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.


About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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