In 2012, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp launched the first global private and participatory effort to create a permanent outpost on Mars. Known as Mars One, this organization has been widely criticized in the press since its inception, some good or bad. Many have called the organization's plan a "suicide mission" or "swindle", but others have invested their time, energy and expertise to help make it happen.
In addition, thousands of volunteers embarked on the adventure, ready to risk their lives to be part of the first unreturned journey to the red planet. Unfortunately, we may never know if Bas Lansdorp's plan to colonize Mars was feasible or even sincere. According to a recent statement from a Swiss court, Mars One Ventures (the for-profit arm of Mars One) is now bankrupt.
The decision was posted in the official trade register of the Canton of Basel-Stadt in Switzerland, where the company is registered, dated January 15, 2019. If this was for the keen eye of a Some Reddittor (username u / s-Vineyard) on February 10 and in a Swiss newspaper that covered the story, the list could have gone unnoticed. As the list stated:
"By decision of January 15, 2019, the civil court of the city of Basel declared the company bankrupt with effect from January 15, 2019 at 3:37 pm, so dissolving."
This is confirmed by the documents filed with Companies House, the Registrar of Companies of the United Kingdom. According to an accounting statement issued on September 30, 2018 (dated March 30, 2018), the company was virtually insolvent, with its shareholder funds valued at less than £ 20,000 (approximately $ 28,000).
When it was founded, Mars One was made up of two entities – the non-profit organization Mars One Foundationand the for-profit society Mars One Ventures. While the former was responsible for managing the project, the latter was the majority shareholder of the profit-making group Interplanetary Media Group, which was also responsible for broadcast rights.
It is this group that would be responsible for transforming the possible Mars mission into the greatest reality TV experience ever. Two days after the start of the story, Mars One confirmed the Swiss court's decision on its website stating:
"On February 5, 2019, the court of appeal of the Swiss canton of Basel-City confirmed that the Swiss company Mars One Ventures AG, a company of the group Mars One, was in the process of administration. The company has a period of thirty days to reverse the process of administration. The CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, pointed out that this procedure did not concern the related entity, the Mars One Foundation. "
This comes a few months after Mars One announced the signing of an investment agreement with Phoenix Enterprises AG, a Swiss investment company. At the time, Mars One said the company would "subscribe for Mars One Ventures AG shares over a twelve month period" and raise a total of up to 12 million euros (about 13.5 million US dollars).
At the time, Lansdorp claimed that the purpose of the agreement was to return Mars One to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FSE) and pay license fees to the Mars One Foundation. In their last message, Mars One stated that they had been suspended from the ESF for non-compliance with their regulations.
"The company was about to address these compliance issues with a view to resuming stock trading; these efforts have been disrupted by the current situation, "they say. The last message also indicated that Mars One had debts of approximately € 1 million (US $ 1.13 million) and that Phoenix Enterprises intended to enter into an agreement with the creditors of the organization.
Apparently, Lansdorp and his associates are not ready to admit their defeat for the moment. As was mentioned in the last message, Mars One has plans for the future once it leaves the administration:
"For the execution of the trip to Mars, the company will continue to seek strategic collaboration with renowned companies and organizations involved in the journey to Mars. Mars One itself will focus on "being there," even more inspiring, the adventurous story of humans living on Mars, making The Red Planet their new homeland. With the help of its new investment plan, Mars One Ventures will set up a marketing machine to create continuous content on these activities, evaluated from all angles, including technological, psychological, economic and ethical aspects. "
Since its inception, Mars One has not lacked criticism and controversy. The independent evaluation conducted by MIT in 2014, for example, questioned the many aspects of the Mars One plan. In addition to funding and technology, the MIT team claimed that early settlers would probably die after 68 days from asphyxiation, starvation, dehydration, or incineration in an atmosphere. rich in oxygen.
In addition to this, in March 2015, one of the finalists of Mars One (Dr. Joseph Roche) also criticized the organization, even going so far as to claim that it was not the same. was acting a scam. Other skeptics have compared the entire plan to the Fyre Festival, a "luxury music festival" that has turned out to be an elaborate hoax designed to trick investors and contributors of their money.
Nevertheless, Mars One continued to attract its share of supporters and luminaries. Among them is Robert Zubrin, famous defender of the crewed Martian exploration and author of "The Case for Mars", who became a Mars One advisor in October 2013 (despite doubts about the general architecture of the mission ).
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether Bas Lansdorp and the organization he founded are over or can somehow get back on their feet. In his latest message, Mars One also stated that "no further information will be published before the March 6th press conference".
Further reading: Engadget, MarsOne