Private spaceflight project Mars One, led by eccentric Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, was originally announced back in 2011 as a mission to send the world’s first one-way astronauts to the Red Planet. The plan is to put together a group of earthlings who will go through a rigorous training process before making the 300-million mile voyage to Mars to establish the first human colony — with no hope of return. Endemol-owned Darlow Smithson Productions has now joined with Mars One as its exclusive worldwide production partner to document the different stages of the astronaut selection and training program. (Earlier this year, Lionsgate TV was in the mix, but I’m now told that a deal ultimately never came to fruition.) From more than 200,000 applicants, 705 candidates will be tested to the extreme, overseen by a panel of scientists, adventurers and astronauts. In order to qualify for the mission, individuals must demonstrate they have acquired the knowledge and skills as well as high levels of psychological and physical performance required for the longest distance voyage ever embarked upon by humans. But, no return trip from the planet is possible. Instead Mars One says it will send additional crews every two years to further build the colony.
With the astronaut selection process already underway, the first instalments of DSP’s production are expected to begin airing around the world in early 2015, although no broadcast partner has been announced. The first ambitious seven-month flights are eyed for 2025. Whether they become a reality, the project has been hailed as fodder for the ultimate reality series. That’s especially resonant in today’s TV landscape of increased focus on social experiments like Utopia. It also fits in with the trend towards space travel in the reality arena including NBC’s Space Race, from Mark Burnett and Richard Branson; Sony Pictures Television’s Milky Way Mission; and the tentatively titled Mission To Mars project from Thinkfactory Media and The Mars Society.
According to a statement today from the partners, Mars One’s mission plan “integrates components that are well tested and readily available from industry leaders worldwide.” Those already under contract with Mars One include Lockheed Martin and Paragon Space Development.
Iain Riddick, DSP’s Head of Special Projects and Digital Media, said today, “This has to be the world’s toughest job interview for what is without question a world-first opportunity and the human stories that emerge will captivate and inspire generations across the globe.” DSP’s credits include Channel 4 and Smithsonian Channel’s How To Build A Bionic Man; Nova and Discovery Canada’s Earth From Space; Nat Geo’s Dead Or Alive; and BBC Two’s Neil Armstrong: First Man On The Moon.