Neil DeGrasse Tyson Says Mars One Mission Won’t Get Backing

Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t have high hopes for Mars One. As the well-known scientist and host of Star Talk told Business Insider, it’s unlikely the mission to Mars will get the funding it needs to succeed. Mars One, which plans to create a Martian outpost with a crew to land in 2024, recently announced the 100 finalists to be the first Martian astronauts.

But deGrasse Tyson says the mission is just too risky for private industry. Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation, and its official website lays out a financing plan that relies on broadcasting rights, crowdsourcing, intellectual property revenues, sponsorships, and wealthy donors. The organization estimates it will cost $6 billion to put the first four people on Mars.

The mission is risky, both for the loss of human and life and dollars and cents. Those types of risks are normally borne by governments and not by investors, according to Tyson.

“So you (a private company) ask ‘who’s with me?’ Answer: No one’s with you. Maybe I’m just out of it, but I just don’t see a business model to sustain journeys to Mars.”

For that reason, Tyson doesn’t see a scenario apart from one where government partners with the private sector.

“Once the costs are understood, the risk factors are contained, then you can establish whether that’s something you can make money on. Now if NASA wants to go to Mars and they pay SpaceX for the space vessel, sure.”

Tyson is not the only naysayer when it comes to Mars One. Astrophysicist Dr. Michio Kaku told ABC News the mission has many red flags. For one, the financial estimates of Mars One do not match up with Dr. Kaku’s assessment of the what the endeavor could end up costing.

“This has the atmosphere of a circus, where you have amateurs simply raising their hand, volunteering to be the first person on Mars. They have set impossibly unrealistic deadlines, and the amount of money that you have to have to go to Mars is incredible, perhaps 50 to several hundred billion dollars.

“And given the fact that this will be untested technology, I would assume that the failure rate would be about 90 to 95 percent for a mission of this magnitude. In other words, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

A Mars One IndieGogo campaign in 2014 raised $313,744 for a Mars lander and satellite mission scheduled for 2018. Mars One’s goal for the IndieGogo campaign was $400,000. The 2018 landing is said by the agency to be a “demonstration mission” that provides proof of concept that the technology necessary for a human mission will work.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast Star Talk will debut as a talk show on the National Geographic Channel in April.

[Neil deGrasse Tyson image courtesy of Getty]