Mars One Expects To Keep All Media Profits Within 2-3 Years, Plans To Fund Space Trip Entirely With Donations

Mars One Expects To Keep All Media Profits Within 2-3 Years, Plans To Fund Space Trip Entirely With Donations
Mars One Expects To Keep All Media Profits Within 2-3 Years, Plans To Fund Space Trip Entirely With Donations Flickr: europeanspaceagency

Mars One Co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp told iDigitalTimes that he expects the planned one-way trip to the red planet to be entirely funded by donations within 2-3 years. This means that any profits gained from broadcasting the crew’s training, as well as licensing any intellectual property rights, will instead be kept to pay the “billionaires,” as  Lansdorp put it, who invest in the venture now.

“I actually believe by the time we send the first crew, we will get more donations than we need to finance to the mission, so if it that is true all the revenues [will  stay with the corporation],” Lansdorp said. "If it’s not necessary to [invest the profit back into the mission], then no, because we need investors to make this happen and the best way of getting investors is by giving them the best deal possible.”

As previously reported, Mars One expects to run the crew training for a period of ten years, live broadcasting the potential astronauts as they’re locked up in a simulation of the planned Mars outpost for indefinite amounts of time. Lansdorp has said that he plans to have events such as toilet malfunctions or midnight system failures to continuously challenge the trainees' fortitude, supposedly to prepare them for the life threatening scenarios that could occur on Mars.

“Of course, right now, we need to spend much more money than we get in donations, so there would be a lot of upfront money coming from the for-profit part of the company into the foundation. At some point in time, it will be reduced until it’s zero,” Lansdorp said. “It might be as soon as two to three years, but it really depends on the hype, and you can’t really predict hype. We know by the time we send humans, everybody will be watching — everybody — but it’s very difficult to predict if that will be linear or like a hockey stick or a opposite hockey stick.”

The Mars One venture is made up of two separately registered entities — Mars One Media B.V., a private corporation that “holds the exclusive media and intellectual property rights to the mission and will give the investors a good return on investment by monetizing those rights,” and Mars One, a non-profit foundation which “will own the outpost on Mars, and . . . will train the crews.”

According to Lansdorp, this is because Dutch law prohibits nonprofits from keeping anything more than a reasonable cash reserve. The nonprofit foundation, in charge of running the Mars One operations that require money, will spend the donations before using any revenue coming from Mars One’s private arm.

“If we need $2 billion per year after the first manned mission, then there’s no need for money. So [if] we get more, we would have to spend it. We would have to start doing ridiculous things to spend the money,” Lansdorp said. “It’s the responsibility of the for-profit part of the company to pay the foundation for the mission and anything that’s not necessary for it can remain inside the for-profit part of the company as a return on investment for the investors.”

Lansdorp expects the profits from broadcasting the crew’s training to be olympian, quite literally pointing to the Olympics as an example of what could be achieved with a global reality show.

However, as Elmo Keep pointed out, not only was the enthusiasm for the venture drastically over-reported on — only 4,227 applications were received, not 200,000 — but merchandising was heavily marketed toward those applicants, with community members receiving arbitrary points based on how many T-shirts, hoodies, and posters they purchased.

According to Dr. Joseph Roche, a former NASA researcher included in The Guardian’s top ten Mars One applicant shortlist, and who spoke to Keep, all the application process consisted of was a questionnaire, uploading a self-recorded video to the Mars One website, a physical with an applicant’s own local doctor, and a 10 minute long Skype call.

Both the Mars One private and nonprofit arms are registered in the Netherlands at a suburban house address, and according to Lansdorp, the entire Mars One operation is run by a team of less than ten people. Seven are listed on the Mars One “About Us” page.

Lansdorp said that Mars One has stopped negotiating any new media licensing deals, as, “if [Mars One] can take a few more steps, it will be much easier for us to negotiate deals where we can keep hold of all the media rights and be in charge of what goes on TV.”

EDIT: The total number of submitted applications was originally reported as 2,761. This has been updated to 4,227 (h/t @MartianColonist).


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