Mars Exchange
Screening from 100 to 24

Screening from 100 to 24

by Vince on Tuesday, 14th July 2015 in Astronaut Selection, Inside 360, People, Norbert Kraft

In our last story, we looked at how the Mars 100 were selected in Mars One’s Astronaut Selection Program. Mars One's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norbert Kraft is overseeing the selection process. Here he describes how Mars One will select 24 candidates from the 100 finalists.

We now have 100 candidates, and we have a process in place to trim this down to 24 people who will receive a formal full-time employment offer to train for the mission to Mars. We will begin training the 24 Mars One candidates in teams of four, and we expect to have six teams. Remember, only one team of four members will go on the first mission, so we will be screening until near to the end. This will be a long process since the training will last for at least 10 years.

First, I should note that what I’m describing below is subject to some change. However, the selection process will proceed along the broad outline that follows.

The Mars 100 will convene at a location to self-select into 6-10 teams of 10 to 15 members. Having the candidates choose with whom they want to team up with will allow them to get better acquainted and try and find out more about each other. Teams must be as diverse as possible in regards to age, nationality, and ethnicity. For example, 50% of each group needs to be female. Additionally, team members should group themselves with candidates that they can work well with.

The Mars One selection committee will set up group dynamic challenges and provide study materials related to the challenges. This will allow the Mars One selection committee to observe how the candidates work in a group setting. I can’t reveal the specific challenges, since the selection process involves candidates learning to solve problems as a team but as an example, the Mars One selection committee might blindfold a group of people and tell the group that the goal is to make a perfect triangle. The Mars One selection committee then observes how the candidates solve the problem as a team. How did candidates decide to proceed? How did candidates organize themselves into a team? How did candidates handle the conflicts that inevitably emerge while facing the challenge? Personality characteristics become transparent during this process. The Mars One selection committee will observe all of this and debrief candidates afterward. Every day 10-20 candidates will be selected out.

This process will play out over five days, and from our observations we will be able to screen the Mars 100 to 40 potential candidates. These candidates will begin the isolation part of the screening process, which will take place over another nine days. Prior to the isolation, candidates will have to consider and prepare some basic facts about themselves and their personal preferences. On a long voyage and in a permanent settlement, people in a small group can’t hide or avoid each other. They will have 24 hours a day to annoy each other! This means simple things matter quite a bit—for example, whether you could be very bothered by dirty socks on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, or body odor. Little things become a big deal and people can’t hold frustration in during a space voyage or a lifetime in a small settlement. The key point here is that there are no bad team members, but there are team members who fit better than others, and we and the candidates need to get the right team members together.

In the isolation unit they will study material related to the final challenge that is coming up for the teams in isolation. They will then face multiple challenges, including tests on the material they’ve studied, because this is part of what the final Mars 24 candidates will be doing over the next 10 years. The results of the challenge will help us select down to 30 candidates, and these candidates will undergo the Mars Settler Suitability Interview (MSSI), which measures suitability for long duration Space missions and Mars settlement. The MSSI includes but is not limited to the following topics: teamwork and group living skills, motivation, family issues, performance under stressful and unique working conditions, and judgement and decision making. The interview will last for 4 hours and will be video recorded for analyses by the Selection Committee. 24 candidates will be selected after the MSSI and offered a full-time employment contract to begin training for the next 10 years.

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

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