While the Mars One project always seemed destined for the "Too Good to be True" folder, it turns out the space venture is even more tissue paper thin than we thought.

Dr. Joseph Roche, a professor at Trinity College's School of Education in Dublin and Ph.D in physics and astrophysics, recently revealed in an interview with Medium the absurd, behind-the-scenes details of the organization. Roche was one of 100 candidates selected to proceed to the next round of what will eventually become 24 astronauts trained to colonize Mars, a feat the organizers hope to pull off by 2025. As Roche tells it, however, the selection process for that one-way ticket is more of a popularity contest than a serious expedition. 

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche wrote in an email. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

That Mars One needs funding is no big surprise. The initial trip to Mars alone is expected to cost north of $6 billion. The fact that they're asking candidates to purchase, as Roche describes "T-shirts, hoodies, and posters," as well as "kindly donate 75 percent of their speaking fees back to the organization" sounds like a scam. 

As for the selection process, remember that astronomic number of applicants (202,000) the Mars One team has been feeding the media now for years, most recently on Feb. 15?  The actual number, according to Australian journalist Elmo Keep, is only 2,761. He told Sky News in February that after interviewing people close to the project over the course of a year, he believes that "there is scant-to-no proof Mars One has any capability to make it real." 

It's also worth noting that for someone with a decent chance of making the final cut, Roche says he has never met anyone from the Mars One team in person. The closest was a 10-minute Skype interview with the organization's chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft. 

“That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers … and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”

Roche's scathing revelations aside, the Mars One program also lost its reality television deal with Darlow Smithson. The series, via television rights and sponsorship, was expected to bring in billions to help fund the expedition's missions. 

In an interview with NPR this morning, which was likely recorded before the Medium article went public, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp maintained that the reality TV series was still going forward. 

"We expect it's worth up to 10 Olympic Games' [worth] of media revenue, which is $45 billion," he said. As for critics who claim the whole thing is just a marketing scam, Lansdorp said: "I think that the people who say that really haven't paid attention to what we've achieved already."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Mars One finalist reveals space venture's major flaws
Dr. Joseph Roche, one of 100 candidates shortlisted for the planned one-way trip to the red planet, speaks out.