Mission to Mars mania

We are going to Mars. I'm so excited I think I just colonized myself.

A group called MarsOne (http://mars-one.com/en/), led by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, who founded Ampyx Power (www.ampyxpower.com) before selling his majority share to fund the Mars mission, has the world abuzz with the idea of leaving it forever.

If you haven't read the details on MarsOne already, the plan is to colonize Mars by sending groups of people from Earth on a one-way trip to Mars in 2023. The application process will begin shortly, but you must be at least 18, which means, at the very least, you'll be pushing 30 by the time you get to the red planet. But don't worry about working out to stay ready. Mars' gravity is only 38% that on Earth, so you'll be able to run faster than Usain Bolt (www.usainbolt.com) and jump higher than Cody (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCX5aFJuMPc), regardless of your age.

Thousands of people around the world already have inquired about becoming an astronaut in the program, so the competition will be muddled at first. But the good news is that once the riffraff is whittled away in the first round through their personality profiles and entry videos and then the unhealthy are discarded through physical exams in the second round, we the people will have the opportunity to choose who goes by voting for our favorites through a reality-TV-based selection process. If you thought Super Bowl ads were getting expensive, just wait until this show airs.

MarsOne estimates the program will cost $6 billion. For the sake of comparison, in the 1970s NASA estimated the one-time development costs for the space shuttle would be around $8 billion, and that amount didn't even include the per-mission cost of each flight. That’s close to $50 billion in today’s money. MarsOne obviously has a headier CFO, who could see where the fat needed to be cut.

In the program’s reality-TV-based process, the citizens of geographic areas will choose the final candidates from their region, so don't worry about forking out the money for those subscriptions to TVJapan (http://www.tvjapan.net/en/watching/cabletv.php) or the BBC (http://www.bbc.com/), just so you can properly research and vote for astronaut hopefuls in other countries. You're only responsible for your own area.

These individuals will ride the spacecraft and colonize Mars on behalf of the Earth. There’s no return voyage. It’s a one-way ticket. And to help pay for it, there already are a few companies helping to foot the bill. The major sponsors so far include Byte Internet (http://www.byte.nl/cms/),  a Web hosting company in the Netherlands, Aleph Objects (http://www.alephobjects.com/), a 3-D printing company in Loveland, Colorado, and Verkkokauppa (http://www.verkkokauppa.com/), a Finnish consumer electronics retailer. Apparently, there's big money in the website service provider industry in Holland.

According to the MarsOne site, “the primary responsibility for the astronauts is to keep everything, and everyone, up and running.” I suspect, on Mars, "critical equipment" will have a whole new meaning. For the program to be successful, the organizers surely have the forethought to include some engineers and maintenance technicians on the trip to keep the critical equipment operational. Chicken George (http://www.buddytv.com/info/chicken-george-boswell-info.aspx), of Big Brother Season One fame, might be fairly entertaining to some television viewers, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be able to help when the artificial-environment-system alarm starts blinking red.

And for those of you who are not chosen for the mission to Mars, there are still plenty of needs here on Earth. You can always find more jobs on our website’s Plant Connection (http://jobs.plantservices.com). So, embrace your future, wherever it may be. There's work to be done, whether you're a ham-it-up, reality-TV-in-space wannabe or just an industrial plant guy with the skills to keep things up and running.