Mars One, if it actually gets off the ground, will easily be the most spectacular reality TV show ever on the air. It will also be the shortest. Because if the calculations run by a group of braniacs at Massacusetts Institute of Technology are correct, all of the cast members will die — and the show will have a very short run.
And that's about as "real" as reality TV gets.
Don't look for Mars One on your cable guide or on Hulu anytime soon, however. The Dutch show aims to send groups of human beings to live on Mars. The first launch, of four amateur astronauts who will start the first human colony on Mars, is not supposed to blast off for the Red Planet until 2022.
The show has already received 200,000 applications, even though the Mars One producers have been very clear that the trip to Mars is a one-way mission. Cast members on the show will spend the rest of their lives on Mars — an ordeal that makes the Teresa Giudice prison sentence look like cakewalk.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the Mars One reality stars won't exactly be roaming free around the planet's surface. The hostile environment of Mars will mean they will live inside cramped space capsules for the remainder of their lives.
But it gets worse. The MIT graduate student researchers say those lives will be a lot shorter than the aspiring reality stars might expect. In fact, the researchers say, the first death of Mars One cast member should happen just 68 days after the "colonists" land on the Martian surface.
Why such a short life span? One word: oxygen.
The surprising party of the problem, however, is that the Mars One colonists will die not from lack of oxygen, the MIT researchers say, but from too much of the stuff.
"If crops grown on Mars are the only food source, they will 'produce unsafe oxygen levels in the habitat,'" the researchers Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens and Olivier de Weck say that the Mars One cast members will perish "due to suffocation from too low an oxygen partial pressure within the environment."In other words, plants make oxygen and that oxygen has to go somewhere. On Mars, however, the humans and plants will be living in the same enclosed space. Soon, there will be too much oxygen in the air.
But letting the oxygen out isn't as easy as it sounds. To maintain survivable air pressure in the artificial environment, oxygen must be mixed with nitrogen, which must come from tanks sent up along with the astronauts — tanks that will run out around day 66, giving the Mars One reality show cast just hours or maybe a couple of days to live.
And that's just one problem. The constant, 100 percent humidity from the growing plants is another, that would make life on Mars not only a shirt experience, but a sweaty one.
For his part, Mars One founder and mastermind Bas Landorp says that the MIT students have it all wrong, and that he's already taken the oxygen problem into account. About 200,000 people, it seems, are willing to bet their lives that he's right.