The Martian Chronicles

By: Peggy Nelson
June 8, 2012

Remember the Russian Parking Lot Martians? Six international astronauts who spent 520 days in a specially-designed trailer capsule in a parking lot outside Moscow, testing the practical, physiological, and psychological stressors of a months-long flight to Mars. Mid-journey, they “landed” on Mars (were permitted to exit the trailer into the parking lot), take some samples and measure some things, then it was back into the trailer for the long ride home.

Now we all know that the ride home is much, much longer than the ride there. You’ve already seen the sights, you’re sick of your siblings, and you fight in the back seat about who gets more of the middle to try to take a nap.

Which is where the brilliance of the one-way trip comes in.

[Mars One promotional video/trailer]

In 2011, Physicist Paul Davies reported that “about 1,000” people volunteered for Red Mars when he floated the idea of a one-way ticket in the Journal of Cosmology in 2010. Characterizing most of the enthusiasts (as well as himself) as starry-eyed dreamers, Davies recommends colonists be composed of seasoned scientists — with life expectancies of less than 20 years.

Now Mars One, a private Dutch company, intends to fill in the emigrant gap, establishing a no-return Martian settlement by 2023 — with a twist. The whole thing will be funded by 24/7 reality TV — not for the Martians to remember life of Earth, Perky Pat-style — but for us to watch them.

[Red rover, red rover; NASA]

We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it. Everybody in the world can see everything that will happen in the preparations and on Mars. This would be ‘real’ reality TV — adventure is automatically included, we don’t have to add fake challenges.By sending a new crew every two years, Mars will have a real, growing settlement of humans — who would not like to follow that major event in human history?

—Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder, quoted in Yahoo News


Making the rounds of the jobber screens this spring were a number of webcams positioned in birds’ nests. Viewers could watch as the eggs appeared, hatched, grew, tweeted, and finally fledged. The birds didn’t do that much — birds don’t, really — but that didn’t matter. The birdcams were mesmerizing; it wasn’t that one couldn’t look away, but that one constantly glanced back. Helpful popout windows in a corner of the screen merely enabled the addiction.

Watch live streaming video from cornellherons at

Now imagine: how much better would it be to watch humans hatching their schemes and lives on a brand-new planet? A new life awaits you in the offworld colonies!

The title, of course: Final Frontier House.

[The Truman Show, dir. Peter Weir, 1998]

Starry-eyed or not, any scientists or adventurers who signed up for the mission would become the new stars of Reality TV.

Tune in, turn on. And pass the lichen.

[Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott, 1982]

This program brought to you by Ray Bradbury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Philip K. Dick, and viewers like you everywhere.


Read more about Mars colonization on HiLobrow:
Humans: Red Mars
Microbes: Sweet Melissa
Performance Artists: Biosphere 2

Mars One website


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