Bas Landsdorp is a Dutch engineer and entrepreur with a dream.
His dream is to build a colony on Mars.
NASA also has this dream. Their problem is how to pay for it.
Mr. Lansdorp thinks he has come up with a solution.
He intends to pay for the whole mission by combining it with a reality TV show.
"This will be one of the biggest events in human history," he said. "We are talking about creating a major media spectacle, much bigger than the moon landings or the Olympics, and with huge potential for revenues coming from TV rights and sponsorships."
Mr. Landsdorp thinks he can raise $6 billion through sale of the TV rights.
Having been a TV producer for the past 25 years, and having produced several thousand hours for cable, I can only say 'if only'.
The trip to Mars alone is some 550 days. That would be 550 days of a few people sitting in a can the size of a Volkswagon. Not the most exciting TV in the world. Of course, you could spice it up by putting a few deadly snakes into the capsule. Or maybe by having the audience vote one of the astronauts 'off the spaceship' every week or so. Maybe you could replace their diet of Tang (or whatever they eat now), with live spiders. That might boost your ratings a bit.
Of course, the real answer to Mr. Landsdorps idea, at least from a television perspective is, they don't really have to go at all. They can just pretend to go. It will rate better.
In 1969 the first Americans landed on the moon. In 1972, they left the moon for the last time. No one has been back since.
They have not gone back not because they lacked the technology. The technology has gotten much better. Your microwave oven probably has more computing power than the entire Apollo Lunar Landing Craft did.
No one has gone back to the moon because it is boring.
Space travel, real space travel at least, is boring.
It makes for bad TV.
Hit a few golf balls. Jump up and down in low gravity and... well, that's about it. What else do you have? Rocks? Dust? Not a deadly anaconda in sight.
That doesn't mean that the idea of space travel is bad TV.
On the contrary, since we walked away from any more boring moon missions, we have been inundated and fascinated with 'space adventures'. From Star Trek (launched in 1966, three years before man walked on the moon and still going strong), to Star Wars, to Avatar we love to see people flying around in space. Just not the real thing.
And does it really matter?
Since we are watching it on TV (or online) does it make any difference if it is really 'real'? I mean, really.
Most 'Reality' TV is fake anyway.
I recently saw an episode of Man v. Wild in which the hero, Bear Grylls, jumped out of an airplane over Montana. With GoPro (probably) cameras strapped to his wrists he told us that he was frightened that he could end up landing on jagged rocks or trees. Then, all of a sudden, he spotted a lake. Boy, that was lucky! But could he make it to the lake? Lots of tension... wind shift... uh oh... maybe... maybe.... Then... we cut to a camera in the lake for a fantastic shot of his splash down. So either the camera crew was already at the lake (having lunch), or they move really really really fast. Personally, I am for the former.
Like I said.
Not that it isn't entertaining.
So why bother with all the risk and expense of trying to put people on Mars when, for a mere fraction fo the cost, you can produce one heck of a 'reality' show and get much better ratings.
Snakes on Mars!
Follow Michael Rosenblum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Rosenblumtv