Chinese state-run media has branded the Mars One mission designed to land successful applicants on the Red Planet in 2023 a “hoax” and probable “scam”, in what appears to be a co-ordinated attempt to undermine the non-profit behind the project.
In a “news” article titled Settlement on Mars a hoax? Over 10,000 Chinese people fall for it, Communist Party mouthpiece The People’s Daily claims without direct quotation that project CEO Bas Lansdorp has already admitted the 2023 date is unlikey.
“[He] admitted in an interview last week that they were beating a retreat from the plan since the complexity of the project goes far beyond their imagination,” it said.
The report goes on to claim that Mars One’s registered office in Amersfoort shows no signs of company logo, and is in fact a mere rented space in a shared office facility.
“Therefore, media assumed that Mars One project is probably a commercial scam,” the red rag continues.
State-run news wire Xinhua uses a slightly different tack, reporting Lansdorp’s response that his plan is indeed “ambitious” and “serious”, while highlighting apparently contradictory information in a new company statement which El Reg has so far been unable to track down beyond the Chinese media.
The idea is to raise enough money, around $6bn, from TV rights, merchandise sales, donations and applicant registration fees ($38 for Americans) to first build a Mars rover to scout out suitable locations and then send up a manned vessel by 2023 using a craft built by Elon Musk's SpaceX company.
The end goal is to turn the whole project into a “global media event” culminating in the what sounds like a Martian version of Big Brother.
Science experts have certainly voiced their doubts about the ability of the project to establish a permanent, self-sustaining habitat on the Red Planet.
However, the attacks from Chinese media seem to betray a different motive.
Over 10,000 Chinese citizens have applied to become astronauts – the second highest number behind Americans - and the government would seem to be not at all happy.
The Xi Jinping regime has defined itself by pledging to help the nation and its people realise the “Chinese dream”, it doesn’t look at all good if tens of thousands want to leave the Communist Valhalla for a ball of rock 200 million kilometres away.
Still, at least the media are only currently casting doubts on the project’s veracity. When mention of it starts to get censored online we’ll know the Party is seriously miffed. ®