Monday, February 11, 2019

Mars One Finally Goes Bankrupt

          By Chuck Black

The plan always seemed more akin to the plot of the 1967 Mel Brooks movie "The Producers," which focused on the down-on-his-luck producer Max Bialystock (played by Zero Mostel), who teamed up with a timid accountant (Gene Wilder) in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world's worst show and make off with the production funds.

Be that as it may, Mars One Ventures AG, the commercial arm of the Mars One effort to colonize the red planet, was liquidated on January 15th, 2019 in a case heard in the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, according to a January 16th, 2019 filing (#CHE-375.837.130) by the canton’s commercial register. 

As outlined in the February 11th, 2019 Space News post, "Mars One company goes bankrupt," the filing was first publicized February 10th, 2019 on Reddit.

According to the Space News post, "the filing offered little information about the bankruptcy case or how the company was liquidated. Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, confirmed that the company was bankrupt, but provided few additional details."

As outlined in the post:
Mars One gained headlines several years ago with plans to privately finance human missions to Mars, with those selected to fly on those missions committing to a one-way trip with no prospect of return to Earth. In its 2012 announcement of its plans, Mars One said it expected to have people land on Mars in 2023, a date that it has subsequently delayed to no earlier than 2032. 
Mars One claimed it could pull off the initial mission, through the landing of the first four-person crew on Mars, for $6 billion, a figure the organization offered few details about and one widely criticized in the broader space industry as far too low. Mars One planned to raise the funds for the mission by selling broadcasting rights, citing the large revenues generated for the rights to events like the Olympics and the World Cup.
This blog first noted Mars One and its activities in the March 22nd, 2015 post, "Springtime for Mars One," which noted the similarity to the Mel Brooks movie and predicted the company would eventually fail.

As noted in the December 5th, 2016 post, "Another Call for Federal Assistance in Space, plus Kepler, Clyde Space, ULA & Mars One, Which Can Now Sell Stock," Mars One even attempted a reverse merger of the Swiss based publicly traded Innovative Finance AG (InFin). 

The expectation was that selling shares in a publicly traded company would allow Mars One to raise money. But that plan didn't work out. As outlined in the Space News post:
Mars One has provided few financial updates since it announced in December 2016 that Mars One Ventures had gone public after an acquisition by InFin Innovative Finance AG, a Swiss firm previously working on mobile payment technologies that was already traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. 
The last shareholder update by Mars One Ventures was published in June 2018, according to the investor relations section of its website. At the time trading of the stock had been suspended on the Frankfurt exchange, with hopes of resuming it in August.

A series of intermediary steps, kicked off with great fanfare, also eventually ground to a halt.
Mars One awarded study contracts in 2013 to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop an orbiter to serve as a communications relay, and to Lockheed Martin for a Mars lander based on the design for NASA’s Phoenix mission. 
However, activity on those projects ground to a halt by early 2015 after the companies completed their initial studies and did not receive funding for additional work.
Mars One bears uncanny similarities to various businesses being proposed even today which promise great things but don't have any obvious revenue models.

Examples would include the European based Swiss Space Systems (SSS) which, as outlined in the January 24th, 2017 post, "Swiss Court Confirms Swiss Space Systems Bankruptcy But CEO Jaussi Might Buy Assets and Start Over," once attempted to partner with the City of North Bay ON in an attempt to launch a mini-space shuttle and Halifax NS based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) which, as outlined most recently in the April 13th, 2018 post, "Ukrainian Rockets Like the Cyclone 4M Are Too Dangerous an Investment for Western Interests: Kyiv Post," also has a problematic revenue model.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. A man's reach should always exceed his grasp, just so long as the investors do their appropriate due diligence to recognize the difference between shit and shinola. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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