Artist's conception of what the Mars One colony would look like.
Mars One

  • Mars One has declared bankruptcy.
  • The company sought to create a colony of humans on Mars, sending people there as soon as 2025 on a budget of $6 billion (R84 billion).
  • Dr Adriana Marais was supposed to be the South African contender for the one-way trip.
  • The company said Tuesday that it's seeking a new investor to get it out of bankruptcy.

Mars One, the company that promised to send people to Mars on a one-way trip that would be funded by a reality TV show about them starting a human colony there, has declared bankruptcy.

Mars One Ventures, the publicly traded Swiss arm of the company, began bankruptcy proceedings in Switzerland on January 15. The bankruptcy court records were noticed by a Reddit user, and confirmed by the company on Monday.

Mars One has been characterised as a scam for years. The company said it would be able to begin a colony on Mars by 2025 with a $6 billion budget, far cheaper than any other state agency or independent corporation estimated (NASA estimates that a similar plan would cost between $80 and $100 billion). Mars One Bas Lansdorp has deflected criticism from scientists and engineers who say his costs and timeline estimates would be impossible.

Nonetheless, Lansdorp opened up applications for prospective astronauts. More than 200,000 people applied in 2013, Lansdorp said (the number has been disputed). 

South Africa had one candidate - Dr Adriana Marais, head of innovation at SAP Africa, who was shortlisted along with five other Africans. 

Marais received extensive media attention over recent years, and was still doing public presentations about her planned trip this week:

Mars One originally planned to select 100 people for their theoretical mission to space. But months later, many of the finalists Mars One selected said they suspected it was all a hoax.

Lansdorp also never fully explained how he would raise the funds for the project. While at times he proposed it could be sustained by creating a reality show about the experience on Mars, it's unlikely that would be enough.

Commenters on Reddit likened the fiasco to the Fyre Festival debacle.

"Wait, the next Fyre Festival isn't going to be on Mars?" one commenter wrote on the news of the bankruptcy.

In addition to its corporate division, Mars One also has a non-profit arm, the Mars One Foundation. The Foundation is still solvent, according to a Mars One press release Tuesday.

In the press release, Mars One announced that "discussions have been held with a new investment company" to revive Mars One Ventures by paying its debts. 

"Mars One Ventures will establish a marketing machine, creating continuous content about these activities, evaluated from all angles, including technological, psychological, economical, and ethical aspects," the statement reads. An announcement was expected in March.

Marais has not yet responded to Business Insider South Africa's request for comment.

In a tweet about the bankruptcy, Marais said: "We will wait for the press conference in March. The mission to Mars is bigger than any of us. We'll get there. One way or the other."

Additional reporting by Business Insider SA.

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