Human Martians would live in tube-like structures.
"What universe -- what place are you from?" Keep asks. "If someone could create a $45 billion entertainment property, they would do it."
Lansdorp doesn't specify how much money Mars One has, but he says it has the cash to sustain operations for now. So far, the program has pulled in $784,380 from donations, merchandise sales and crowdfunding, according to its Donate section. This includes $313,744 from a Mars One Indiegogo campaign that ended in early 2014 (it asked for $400,000). Mars One recently lost a contract with production company Endemol, which was supposed to establish that Mars One television show.
Mars One is not-for-profit, but it receives some funding from, Interplanetary Media Group, a for-profit company it owns. Plus, Mars One completed a successful investment round in 2013. Lansdorp has a signed agreement with a new group of investors, though he won't disclose the amount just yet, other than to say it's a "significant amount of money."
Mars One offers no salary to current candidates. In fact, Lansdorp asks participants to turn over any money earned from press appearances to the company, rather than keep it for themselves. He plans to offer a "revenue share" program, though he says that many candidates prefer to funnel their money directly into Mars One. And some of them are putting their money where their Mars is -- a former candidate explains the selection process to Keep as follows:
"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."
Mars One asserts that a candidate's points don't influence whether that person will be selected for the final mission. Kraft, the leader of Mars One's selection process, says he's focused on finding people who learn quickly, who understand the risks of a one-way mission and who won't abandon their team if they get homesick.
"If you don't understand the risks, you put everyone in jeopardy who's with you," Kraft says.
A lot of Mars One hinges on what-ifs and unknowns. For now, the company has narrowed its pool of Martian candidates to 100. Eventually, they'll get that down to 24 candidates, each of whom will receive an offer to be employed by Mars One. They'll be trained, and eventually the program's first four permanent astronauts will be selected.
"We don't pretend to have the solutions for every problem. We just say that we know that there are solutions for every problem."
Of course, the plans could change. In fact, they already have. Last week, Lansdorp announced that Mars One would be delayed by two years, with the first human Mars landing in 2027. And there are plenty more changes to come, Lansdorp promises.
"I'm absolutely sure that by the time our mission is implemented and humans land on Mars, that it will look nothing like the pictures that we show on our website and many of the systems will be completely different from what we have proposed," he says.
Mars One is under intense scrutiny, and Lansdorp suggests this nit-picking might stem from his own openness about the project's goals, that he might be getting punished for being transparent. NASA, for example, most likely wouldn't even discuss its plans at this point, since everything is really still in the "concept phase," he says.
"We don't pretend to have the solutions for every problem," Lansdorp says. "We just say that we know that there are solutions for every problem."
[Image credits: Mars One]