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The business case for a mission to Mars

Oct 21 2018 15:55
Carin Smith, Fin24

The economic value of sending people to live on Mars is estimated to be between three and ten times that of hosting one Olympic Games, according to Bas Lansdorp, CEO of the Mars One Project.

He spoke about the project at the annual congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) taking place in Durban this week.

For those volunteers selected to go to Mars it will be a one-way trip.

“The cost of the mission will be about $6bn, so I had to come up with a business case for a mission to Mars,” explained Lansdorp. 

The Business Case

“So what is the business case? I think when humans go to Mars it will be the biggest event of the 21st century. Everyone would want to watch it.”

He said it is estimated that the value – including from sponsorships – of the Olympic Games in London was about $4.5bn, while the Star Wars franchise makes about $2bn per year on merchandise sales.

“I think the Mars One mission will be the ultimate content people would want to know about and it will bring a good return on investment,” said Lansdorp.

“I am convinced the money is not going to be the problem. The biggest challenge is the human factor – to find the right team to go. For that we will do extensive simulation tests and challenges.”

More than 200 000 people applied, he said.

“I had to decide at some point whether I want to do the Mars One Project or stay with my wind energy company. A lot has happened over the last seven years and you can expect a lot more exciting things to come,” said Lansdorp.

Changing the world

He said he often gets asked why humans should be sent to Mars if mankind cannot even take care of planet earth.

“My answer is that we are going to Mars for a better planet earth. I think going to Mars will change the world by inspiring people of all ages to become astronauts and scientists,” said Lansdorp.

“If the proverbial impossible – like humans on Mars - is done, then people will believe everything is possible. I think it will bring the world closer together and deliver spin-offs for technology and sustainable farming.” 

No Plan B

Lansdorp believes that going to Mars would make people extremely aware that there is no Plan B for Earth.

“The earth is our spaceship. We are the crew and we need to maintain our spaceship or it will no longer support us. And not all 9 billion people on Earth can go to Mars,” he said.

Dr Adriana Marais, a theoretical physicist, co-presented with Lansdorp.

Marais echoed this view by saying that “our beautiful planet Earth must be maintained by living sustainably, while one can think of exploring at the same time".

She pointed out that a recent UN climate change study indicates that, if carbon emissions on Earth were not reduced in the next 12 years, there will be catastrophic consequences.

Little Green Men

Lansdorp told Fin24 that he certainly does not expect to find “little green men” on Mars, nor does he expect to discover that the US already has a military base there, as some people apparently claim.

“We will not just send a random bunch of people to Mars. We need to send the best teams we can to increase the odds of success,” he said.  

“I am a builder. I want to build stuff, but I don’t want to build another highway. I want to build what has not been built before.

“Let them say it cannot be done and we will prove them wrong. For each person saying it cannot be done, there is one that says it can.” 

Fin24 was a guest of the SACSC at its congress.

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