To Mars and back – the lengths people go for fame

Earth and Mars. Photo: Ignacio Benvenuty Cabral
Earth and Mars. Photo: Ignacio Benvenuty Cabral
Richard Jordan is an award-winning UK and international theatre producer. He has been a regular contributor to The Stage since 2005.
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"Fame is a condition we all crave but no one wants to own" remarks David Baddiel in his honest and thought-provoking new stand-up show: Fame.

He goes on to tell his audience "here's something someone famous will never admit to, which is, being less famous than they once were".

Autumn's here and back on TV are the reality shows such as the X Factor featuring contestants who “crave fame”, while others such as I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here feature some now “less famous” celebrities hoping for a comeback.

Recently, I read a newspaper article reporting that Melissa Ede, a 52-year old transsexual from Hull, had applied to be a contestant on a new reality show planned for 2023. The concept is a journey to Mars in which four contestants will travel to be part of the Mars-One project intended to set up a human colony on the Red Planet and appear in a "Big Brother reality-style TV show". Already 165,000 people worldwide have applied to take part. However, there is a downside: the article reports contestants taking part may lose bone and muscle mass on the 140 million-mile trip and it being almost impossible to readjust to the Earth's much stronger gravity afterwards. In other words, this might be considered a one-way trip to being famous.

Last week, a different paper reported that Bob Geldof will be the first celebrity to fly into space having won this prize at a charity auction. While he no doubt bid a tidy sum for the privilege, and that's great news for the charity, the amount of TV coverage and interviews as a result will do no harm for Sir Bob himself helping put him back front and centre in the public's consciousness.

Geldof may be a legitimate celebrity and, unlike the Mars celebrity wannabes, will be travelling just 67 miles into space on the first return flights. Whether such an extreme reality show as the Mars-One project that TV executive producers are currently dreaming up could ever actually happen is debatable.

This is a brilliant exercise in PR spin, but behind it is a concerning and dark development in the fame game. Here these contestants willingly approach the concept with just a desperation to be famous at whatever the cost to health and well-being, without even the associated post-contest perks and panto appearances that today's hopefuls so desperately desire.

While the previously unknown Ms Ede, will most likely be staying on planet earth, even as an unlikely Mars candidate this all achieves media coverage for her. A trip to Mars therefore seems like the latest "must have" accessory for the fame hungry.

Fame in 2013 is no longer about talent but more often the amount of money someone is willing to pay a leading publicist to manufacture media to promote them.

And, more importantly, it's then about fully accepting they must without question do everything that's instructed of them however extreme and at whatever the psychological and physical cost.

For those who are willing to submit to all this then fame is potentially just a rocket ride away.


  1. Dear Mr. Jordan,

    I am an Emergency Medicine Physician and a Mars One applicant. I can assure you that the majority of applicants– and I have chatted with over 5 percent of them–are not doing this for fame. We do this because we believe it is the next step for humankind.

    A few men walked on the moon spurring incredible advances in technology which have led to the laptop I am currently typing on. Now it’s time to see what else we can do and where we can go, making sure the human race expands beyond one fragile planet. Since governments have allowed their space programs to languish for decades, the private sector is stepping up.

    Yes, Mars One will be using advertising revenue to fund the mission, but it will be more along the lines of documentary coverage of the Olympic Games than a Big Brother reality tv show. And yes, we know the success of the mission is a long shot. But if we never try, we can never succeed.

    Leila Zucker, MD

  2. I Agree with Dr. Leila.No one does such things for FAME. At least not US THE ASPIRING MARTIANS .The Applicants had a desire to go to MARS, be useful to MANKIND, and so they applied.SIMPLE.

    The 1st ever team to TRY CLIMBING Mt.Everest had a member named : ‘George Mallory’, they failed the first time. Mallory formed another team and after 3 yrs tried again…people asked him ‘Why are you taking so much trouble to conquer Everest?’
    He Simply replied : ‘Because, it is there…’ :)

    Mankind has to expand. MarsOne is such a step. And step by step it WILL.

    Hope you Understood.

    Sincerely, mEVijaY

  3. To whom this may concern.

    Consider the assertion made and weigh it against the price to be paid and consider: if “fame” we’re the goal one would not last long. Eventually mars will be boring and such individuals will have nothing to keep their “career of fame” alive. We generally don’t care for fame, we want to go to another planet-and that’s pretty much it. Each of us wants to do something different on said planet and are fully aware there’s no trip back. We’re cool with that, it’s not that we “hate earth” as a whole-each of us has their reasons. Amongst the vocal 5% that belong to the “Aspiring Martians Group” I have seen nothing but comraderie and vibrant discussion. Yes there are those amongst us that raise an eyebrow here and there-but no group worth being in would exclude them. “We are the middle sons of history” and rather than tear down what was built up before we wish to build something new. When the cameras dim-we will still be there, having fun on the red rock we call Home.

    With respects,

    1LT Craig A. Veilleux
    D/3-43 11BDE
    Launcher Platoon Leader

  4. I am an applicant for Mars One. I will agree that there are some that have applied out of a quest for fame. They will not make it to round 2 let alone round 4. I personally do not seek any more fame then the first black smith or the first farmer to call America his new home. The reality show will be more like watching a combination of astronaut training mixed with basic survival training followed by something a lot closer to the first Apollo landing on the moon then current reality show fair. It will be more about learning and cooperation then conspiracy and back stabbing people off the show. Once on Mars: I don’t think the first colonist will have time to think about the cameras let alone play to them. It will simple be a show about 4 people doing their best to survive and make a home for themselves on Mars. The show will add 4 new people every 26 months until the people on earth lose interest. The people on Mars and those planning to go to Mars will never lose interest. Check the consultant list and more of the applications to see what skills they have and what determination they have to pioneer/colonize Mars.

  5. I am also an applicant for the M1 program. Being a 31 year old scientist looking for a chance to use my intellect and problem-solving skills in the only way I can think of that will benefit the entire human race. If I have to suffer fame or public deconstruction to achieve that then it’s a cost to pay, never a goal to pursue.

  6. Mr. Jordan,
    As a Mars One applicant, I find the thought of going to Mars as the chance to fulfill my dream of spacetravel and as a stepping stone for humanities expansion into the universe at large. This project is beyond any single person. As the prior commentors said, those in search of fame aren’t going to last longin the selection process.
    Mars One has specifically stated that they will select their candidates on the basis of who will stand the best chance of surviving and thriving on Mars, not for their stage presence.
    I very seriously doubt Columbus, or Louis and Clark, or Niel Armstrong took their journeys in search of fame. They did it out of a curiosity to discover the unknown, and to find what existed beyond the horizon.
    Simply put, they did it to follow their dreams, just as the people who have applied for Mars One are hoping to follow their own.

    John Revis
    Marine Science Technician 2nd Class
    U.S. Coast Guard

  7. Did Columbus travel across the ocean for the fame? Would he not have gone if there was a television crew following him? This isn’t a game show where we put a bunch of beach goers in a house for a few weeks. This is an important step for mankind and Mars one wants to let the world watch. Buzz and Neil and the other Apollo astronauts had the press and cameras around their entire time training. Neil Armstrong was actually chosen to be first on the moon because he didn’t want to be the first for the fame. He was the humblest of all the candidates and would get the job done. Filming the process and selling the rights to the media is just the byproduct of the whole experience. Whether the first astronauts were from NASA or ESA or any government, with the social media we have today, they would have been just as instantly famous and known world wide.

    As an applicant I assure you, going to Mars has been my life long passion. Not for the fame but for the science and for the gift to the future generations.

  8. Firstly if you had looked into the full concept of our mission, You would have seen that it needs media to make it all possible. So if I help this happen all the better. And as for saying I’m fame hungry. Well if you call wanting to spread a message of diversity acceptance and anti bullying, I guess I’m guilty. I don’t do it for money I have received not one penny. But hundreds of thousands now know transgender people do exist and have a insight into my life. The big question would I give up my life for Mars One ? YES. It needs to be explored and I know I have the character and positivity to suceed on this mission. Together we can make history.

  9. Mr Jordan, I believe you are incorrect in your assertions that the people who have applied to MarsOne are ‘desperation to be famous at whatever the cost to health and well-being’. That is a shocking generalisation.
    I have applied to be one of the first humans to live and work on Mars. I am a trained chemist with an interest in space exploration and I can assure you the media attention will be the last thing on my mind when I am pushing back the boundaries of human civilisation.
    My fellow applicants of the Aspiring Martians Facebook group are all strong-willed, dedicated explorers like myself and I for one will not be tarred with the ‘attention-hungry’ stigma.
    I’m going to Mars for humanity, not myself!

  10. I am one of the aspiring Mars-One applicants. When I first heard about Mars-One project I was excited & trilled that humans are going to go to another planet to live there and create the life we know on Earth. When I realised I could apply to go, and it was one way, I felt nervous at the first; one way sounded like a suicide mission. Then Marie Curie and Newton popped into my head. I asked myself what is the value of a human life spent on Earth or spent on a mission like this, and suddenly my decision was made. At one sitting on a late evening I finished my application and told no one. A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from Norbert asking me if they could give my contact details to some newspaper who is interested to talk to me. I saw no harm in it and agreed. While being interviewed that I learned about the Big Brother factor. Initially,I was a bit disappointed for exposing myself to a potential social mania. Later, I rationalized it; realization of this project totally depends on some funding if governments don’t fund it then there has to be a way to get money, so there disappeared the Big Brother factor. As for fame factor, I do not need to go to Mars for that I can publish papers of a seminal nature go to international conferences and be listened by the thousands. So for some of us it is just the passion of advancement of human knowledge and technology .

  11. Whilst I do genuinely think its commendable that reading the comments of many of these individuals that they are willing to mirror Columbus or Captain Kirk and “to go bodly where no man has gone before” this is certainly not what I have seen reported in the press. Every newspaper article I have read is the same as the one Richard Jordan comments upon which describes this coverage as being that of a Big Brother reality TV show. The media has therefore either got this terribly wrong or the applicants have been seriously misled by the organisers. Whilst I have no doubt there will be those genuinely interested in space science applying, also there will be those who want fame from it and manipulate this for their own gain whether they stay in the selection process or not that does not really matter in fact ironically much in the same way as those who enter X factor or a similar type of show where there are applicants genuinely passionate about music and a career in it, and those who crave attention and to be famous or even in some cases infamous. That I think is the big difference in todays fame hungry society which this article so wisely and eloquently observes. It seems from the comments made here by applicants that the Mars project is being devalued and sensationlised by whoever is handling its Public Relations and why such conclusions are being drawn. I am sure that is something that no explorer in history would surely ever be allowing and if we are to ever take this seriously that needs to change. Although some comments here seem to acknowlege that a show like Big Brother will be made to fund the voyage whilst others do not and thats something clearly not being properly explained to the applicants. I would also question why out of the thousands of applicants it was a transexual put forward to be interviewed and to represent the project in the press over a scientist or expert which would have given it far more gravitas. This would seem a deliberate choice for press attention but loses in my opinion any credibility for this projects suggested scientific study. All that said in terms of fame and celebrity if I was to be giving my life up for science I would want that acknowledged everywhere and with plenty of celebrity perks especially as there is not going to be much on offer when you finally get there! May to relive the tedium perhaps there are also a few celebrities we could send up there with you all to liven things up…whatever happened to the Gladiators?

  12. Dear Sir,
    Dr. Zucker and the others have written well concerning the rationale behind applying to take part in a grueling, one-way trip to mars — a trip that will take us away from family and friends forever. If “fame” is an issue, and if I am selected for the mission, then I hope my name is forgotten; however, I hope that my teammates and I achieve many things that are useful to everyone. I am a professor, a scientist, a philosopher, and many other things, but I am not a glory-hound. Likewise, the thousand or so fellow applicants with whom I have become acquainted are also serious-minded about the mission. We discuss difficult aspects of the mission every day; no one has ever reveled in how popular they might become. Therefore, I am convinced that your article misrepresents the Mars One pool. I hope you will conduct more research into the serious individuals who have applied for this mission.

  13. As a Mars One Applicant I would like to register my distaste with the idea that I might do this for fame. In fact, should I have wanted to enjoy such things I can think of nowhere worse to go than Mars. Sure people on Earth might know who I am. But nobody on Mars will give a damn.

    I won’t be shouted at in the street, nobody will ask for my autograph, there’ll be no journalists and any money I make will be no good even as I’m fairly certain there are no decent restaurants overlooking Valles Marineris.

    I will however get to spend the rest of my life away from all these things. I’ll be able to avoid being subject to earthly concepts of economic servitude and in doing so, live out my life as a self sufficient pioneer of humanity. I’ll be able to help build a new society, free from such social dysfunction as fame and celebrity culture, and create a world where a persons contribution to the scientific and productive fabric of said culture is used to decide a persons worth. As opposed that is to how “good” they look in their size zero dress.

    The bottom line here is that the reality TV element is nothing more than a way to engage the public and finance the mission.

  14. As someone who’s both a Mars One applicant and a regular at the Edinburgh fringe and the performance circles that the author is coming from, I understand why Richard thinks it’s all about fame. Unfortunately so much of what happens in the performance world IS about fame – the thousands of pounds people lose at the Ed fringe every year in the hope of “getting noticed”, the extraordinary amount of people who are “friends” in order to get a little more business/fame. So I can imagine for someone who’s absorbed in that world that it’s a little difficult to believe that so many folks would sign up to something like Mars One and NOT being doing it for fame. Hard NOT to be cynical about the entire endevour.

    Fortunately, there are plenty more of out there who want to be involved with Mars One because we believe in what the project is trying to achieve, that it’s important to our whole world. It’s not about us as individuals craving fame or wealth or ANYTHING – it’s about being willing to sacrifice in the service of our species, and realising this is bigger and more important than any of us individually. It’s also why there are so many serving and ex members of the military that have applied.

    Best of luck with your work Richard – it’s a shame the cynicism has clouded your view of a truly magnanimous project, but maybe with time you’ll realise almost all of us would still have applied even if there were no television broadcast and our names were never known.

  15. As a Mars One Applicant, i’m sure fame is the last thing i want. But come on, everyone in the media gets fame by your fans. Until you, DEAR JOURNALIST, is put an article on a media site in the internet, it make people agree with you, and make you famous by what you said. If they dont agree, they made you unfamous.

    If you checked our discussions in the group of aspiring martians on the facebook, you would realize that we are not researching FAME, we are researching SCIENCE.

    If fame comes with the researching of SCIENCE and making SCIENCE for the world, its a consequence, not a desire to be famous.

    Fame can make you arrogant and selfish. And we are starting a great MARTIAN COMMUNITY AND SOCIETY, only by the expectations and desires of the group of the applicants, to go to mars.

    And i dont really care if someone wants to be famous inside the group, cause everyone can be famous or unfamous by doing yours desires: Hitler is famous by nazis and unfamous by the rest of the world. Buda and Jesus are famous by believers for the GOOD they did for mankind, and unfamous for atheist that doesnt believe they even existed. what makes Fame different of SUCCESS in your desires and wishes.

  16. I cannot go to Mars,due to type 1 diabetes,but I believe there are many motivations for going to Mars,apart from fame..
    1.The Dino’s died out,because they were not an inter-planetary species,like we are hopefully about to become..
    2.To answer the arguably biggest science question of all time..Are we alone..I believe the answer is no,& I believe there will be Martian microbes,found along(or just below) the floors of the Martian cave walls.(They may be living or dead,but they will have a totally different DNA to any life ever found on Earth.
    3.The many technological spin-offs that will come from humankind’s next giant leap are also worth mentioning.
    Godspeed Mars-One.
    Ad Astra.

  17. Hands down this has to rate as the best column and comments ever published by the Stage, if there is an award given out for such things then this has to win it. The article and comments are brilliant, but come on guys, for all your protests here about not wanting to be famous or any recognition as a result of your mission, and as some of these comments have even graciously accepted that if fame happened you would put up with it as a consequence to save mankind perhaps rather than giving your names on your comments and mission status such as; medical officer, or Lieutenant, they should have all been made anonymously thus deflecting personally any such recognition for your efforts. Then I would find your claims and protests to be more believable. Re-reading Richard Jordan’s opening remarks in this article, reflecting upon the previous comment that I left, and reading these new ones it has given me an idea that I am pleased to share (and seek no recognition for in my own contribution to the future of space exploration) to help lift the boredom of a life on Mars which many of you have noted in these comments as a sacrifice you are making but which could also can help with raising the profile and funds for your mission even further. Why not send David Baddiel and Frank Skinner on the mission to Mars with you where they could be the inventors of football on the planet. Although they would have to build up a team over several years it could help give their own Fantasy Football TV show a comeback and also provide you with two celebrities to host your Mars reality show; and as a result more coverage to help raise funds for your mission. I like Baddiel and Skinner but there may even be some people (and rival comedians) who would actually donate just to see them leave Planet Earth. Alternatively, but sticking with this same idea, you could go all out and set up a premium phone line for the public to vote on nominated celebrities to be permenantly sent off to Mars. This therefore seems like it would be a win win win situation for everyone to then go forth and conqueror.

  18. I’ve been thinking long and hard about the idea. I do think this is one of the most important steps human civilization will make. Even if it turns out a fatal failure, we have to start somewhere. But, I sincerely hope the winners are those, who are most deserving of the trip. Unlike those with the incredibly stupid introduction videos on the Mars One community website, there are a lot of applicants, who had the dream all their lives, who studied all their lives in the field, who are willing to make the greatest sacrifice for the dream, not just because “they’re not scared to go”. This is a project of scientific significance first and then a bravery act.

    Because, you see, the problem with fame is that you need to “see” for yourself that you’re famous. But, while these people are on Mars, they won’t feel they are. They won’t see screaming fans every time they walk out the door, they won’t give autographs and so on. So, again, I really hope, only serious people are selected.

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