Mars Exchange
Choosing the Mars Four

Choosing the Mars Four

by Vince on Thursday, 12th November 2015 in Astronaut Selection, Inside 360, People, Norbert Kraft

In our last story, we looked at how the Mars 100 will be screened to 24 candidates who will receive formal offers to train. This interview continues with Mars One Chief Medical Officer Norbert Kraft, MD, explaining the training process and selection of the final four candidates for travel to Mars. 

We will end up with 24 candidates out of the original 200,000-plus applicants. Some of the details concerning training and competition still need to be discussed with the organization that gets the broadcasting rights, because some types of challenges and activities are more telegenic than others. However, we know what they must learn. The basic training will involve the Mars 24 living and studying together in a Mars One facility where their families can join them. Each year, the 24 will study the skills and knowledge that they need to be self-sufficient on Mars—medicine, dentistry, agronomy, electronics, political science, law, and so forth. They will train together for nine months each year. Since team members will come from all over the world, we will be sure that some of the training occurs in the home culture of each team member. For example, if a candidate is from Russia, that candidate’s team will spend some time in Russia, so they can become familiar with the culture...

Three months a year will be spent competing with other teams, and this will be tricky. Six teams of four members will compete to win at challenges related to what they have studied over the previous nine months. The teams will compete against each other, but there will also be times when two of the teams have to collaborate. This is important, because we expect to send new teams of settlers to Mars every four years. This means it is critical that they are good at figuring out how to welcome new team members and collaborate after they’ve developed team cohesion.

When they compete, we will be studying their team dynamics and their success at the challenge they were given. We are interested in how they succeed, but also what they do about problems they can’t solve. How do they pull themselves together? How do they change their team approach when faced with problems they can’t solve? Each group selects its own approach—anarchy, military, democracy can all work—but they have to perform better than the other teams. So the capacity to change organizational style to fit the challenge is critical, and it is this capacity to adapt that will serve them best in the harsh conditions on Mars. They will learn this capacity through the challenges, and because they learn this through experience, it will stay with them.

Each team will have a specific trainer to work with them, and the teams will compete to continue training for the Mars mission. This means some teams will not continue after the competition, and new teams will be coming on as Mars One opens the application process for new candidates.

When it comes to judging the success of the teams, we envision five votes to select the winning teams each year. One vote comes from winning the competition. Three votes come from judges with special expertise in the areas being challenged. And the public gets the fifth vote. The public can be the tiebreaker.

Some people wonder why Mars One would give the public a vote in such a critical choice, but the fact is that Mars One is a mission of humanity. When these people go to Mars, they will be representing all of us. The public needs to be involved in deciding who would best represent humanity on Mars.

Story by Vincent Hyman, a writer and Mars One volunteer living in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

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