Mars One: The Ultimate Small Group Experiment


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Mars, We are Coming! Image by Cyril Rana!!

Mars, We are Coming! Image by Cyril Rana!!

Imagine living in an isolated, extreme environment with a small group of individuals for the rest of your natural life, with no exit provided.  Mars One, a privately-funded initiative to colonize Mars intends to make that scenario a reality.

According to the official Mars One website, the timeline developed by the not-for-profit calls for four astronauts to arrive on the red planet in 2023, and for two more to follow every two years after that.  The astronaut selection and will begin in 2013, and the group will maintain a team of forty trained astronauts. The Mars One group will decide who to send based on a public, democratic process.

Mars One is only one of five current Mars projects including Mars Foundation, Mars Society, Mars Drive and the Mars Initiative, but of the five projects, Mars One is the first to have developed and published a timeline.

Bas Landsdrop, a mechanical engineer and physicist Arno Weilders co-founded Mars One.  Other team members are from the Netherlands, the United States and Canada.  Three “silver” sponsors listed include an Internet company, a 3D printer company, and a consumer electronics retailer.

Going to Mars: Astronaut Preparation and Selection

According to the website, Mars One will train potential settlers for a “minimum of eight years” prior to selecting candidates for taking part in the mission. They’ll be selecting individuals from a pool for whom living on a cold and foreign planet is a dream, not a nightmare – potential astronauts will live several months in groups of four in isolated environments to judge how well they adapt.  The website states that Mars One is “ concerned with how well each astronaut works and lives with the others, in the long journey from Earth to Mars and for a lifetime of challenges ahead. Psychological stability, the ability to be at your best when things are at their worst is what Mars One is looking for.”  What do we already know about how humans interact in small groups?

Small Groups and Creativity

Undoubtedly, the initial group of four astronauts will need to solve unexpected problems.  According to publisher McGraw Hill’s information on small group communications, barriers to creativity in small groups include the need for all members to conform to group norms, deal with a lack of collaboration, compensate for a defensive communication climate and differences in group members’ communication styles, and to smooth out clashes between members’ cultural norms.

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