Wednesday 13 February 2019

Mars One goes bankrupt, ending private colonization project.

The Mars One project to colonize the Red Planet looks like it's come to a quiet end after the company was declared bankrupt. On January 15, Mars One Ventures, a private firm that was bought by a Swiss holding company in 2016, was ordered to go into liquidation in a Swiss court, putting paid to plans to set up a permanent outpost on Mars with volunteers willing to leave Earth on a one-way mission with no hope of return.

Founded in 2012, Mars One made a bit of a splash in its early days, but it went quiet in recent years with its last official news release being an announcement in July 2018 that the company had secured additional funding from Phoenix Enterprises AG, a Swiss investment company. However, that doesn't seem to have helped, with a posting on the website from the Kanton Basel-Stadt stating,

"By decision of 15 January 2019, the Civil Court of the City of Basel declared the company bankrupt with effect from 15 January 2019, 3.37 pm, thus dissolving it."

This official ruling would have gone unnoticed if it had not been seen by a poster on Reddit, who uploaded the link yesterday.

When Mars One first appeared, it outlined an ambitious program to send robots to Mars by 2020 to set up habitats for colonists, who would arrive in 2025. The idea was that the pioneers would remain on Mars for the rest of their lives and would be joined by new recruits every 18 months. The colonists would rely on the land for their raw materials while being the focus of a reality television show beamed back to Earth to pay for the project indefinitely.

Though Mars One got a lot of play in the media and received 200,000 replies when it called for volunteers, there were a lot of red flags about the feasibility of the enterprise. For example, Mars One was not an aerospace company and planned to rely on outside vendors to provide the launchers, spacecraft, habitats, spacesuits, advanced robots, and all the other equipment.

When questioned about the feasibility of its ambitious timeline, the company said it was optimistic that the technology would be available to overcome all the obstacles. However, it insisted that this positive thinking did not extend to returning colonists to Earth one day. This the company insisted was impossible รข€“ making it look more like a marketing ploy than an engineering limitation.

In addition, there were questions raised about the quality of the final pool of volunteers, the selection process, and the finances of the company. Worse, MIT released a study in 2014 saying that the proposed life support system for the colony would result in everyone dying within 10 weeks after landing.

How the collapse of Mars One Ventures will affect the future of its not-for-profit half, the Mars One Foundation, which is funded by license fees charged by the former, is still uncertain.

Update February 12, 2019: In a press statement issued today, Mars One Ventures AG revealed that it has a 30 day window to reverse the administration process, and is currently in discussions with a new investment company. The new investor will announce future plans for the effort at a press conference on March 6.

CEO Bas Lansdorp also confirmed that the Mars One Foundation will not be affected by the administration process.

Source: Kanton Basel-Stadt/New Atlas.

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