Ads in space: Mars One offers interplanetary product placement

Mars One hopes to lure investors with an opportunity to send marketing materials all the way to the Red Planet.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Mars One colony
An artist's depiction of a Mars One colony. Mars One/Bryan Versteeg

So your company payed Michael Bay to advertise in the latest "Transformers" movie? Big whoop. If you really want to get creative with product placement, how about hitching a ride to Mars? Nonprofit foundation Mars One is aiming to send some test missions to the Red Planet in 2018, and it's open to sending some marketing along on the 35-million-mile journey.

Mars One is attempting to develop and fund a human mission to Mars in 2025, but it first needs to successfully test some technologies before sending people out into space. To that end, the foundation announced Monday that it's planning to propel a set of demonstration payloads to the planet.

The research payloads will include a water extraction experiment, a solar panel test, and a camera system for a live video feed back to Earth. Universities around the world were invited to compete to send another payload. Mars One is now accepting proposals.

Two additional payloads are for sale to "paying mission contributors."

"Proposals can take the form of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, marketing and publicity campaigns, or any other suggested payload," the announcement reads. The marketing and publicity opportunities could really peak the interest from companies looking to branch out from terrestrial advertising.

"Previously, the only payloads that have landed on Mars are those which NASA has selected," said Bas Lansdorp, CEO and co-founder of Mars One, in a statement. "We want to open up the opportunity to the entire world to participate in our mission to Mars by sending a certain payload to the surface of Mars."

Mars One has always been forthcoming about its openness for finding funding from sponsorships and sales of broadcasting rights. Does that mean future Mars One landers could end up looking more like Nascar vehicles? It's a possibility. Of course, all of this depends on the ability of Mars One to raise the incredible amounts of cash it will need to pull of its interplanetary plans. If it actually works out, human astronauts may arrive on a Red Planet that already has Coca-Cola and GoDaddy there.