LOS ANGELES – Last summer, more than 200,000 people applied for a one-way ticket to Mars. This week, 1,058 of them were selected to move on to the next round.
The applications – all in video form – were not sent to NASA, or another national space agency, but to a nonprofit organization called Mars One. Based in the Netherlands, Mars One has the unusual goal of turning the colonization of Mars into a reality show with a global audience.
The call for applicants to move to Mars went out in April. Anyone over age 18 was invited to send in a video in which they explained why they wanted to go to Mars, and how they felt about never returning to Earth. They were also asked to describe their sense of humor.
In this first narrowing down of future Mars colonizers, the Mars One team focused on choosing people who were physically and mentally capable of becoming human ambassadors to Mars, Bas Landsorp, co-founder of Mars One, said in a statement.
Those who were taking the mission less seriously were excluded.
The pool of selected applicants includes 472 women and 586 men. More than half of them are under age 35, but 26 are over age 56. The oldest applicant to move on to the next round is 81.
The contenders hail from 107 countries. The United States is the most heavily represented, with 297 applicants moving on to round two. Canada had the second biggest showing with 75 applicants.
Over the next two years, the hopefuls will continue to be whittled down as they are put through a series of physical and emotional tests, as well as “rigorous simulations,” said Norbert Kraft, chief medical officer for Mars One.
Exactly what those tests will consist of, and when they will occur, is still up in the air.
“Details of the 2014 selection phase have not been agreed upon due to ongoing negotiations with media companies for the rights to televise the selection process,” the organization said in a statement.
Over the next four years, Mars One wants to get the applicant group down to about 40. Those selected will train in groups for seven years. And if everything goes according to plan, at that time a global audience will vote on which team will go to Mars in 2025.
The organization is also hoping to send a lander to Mars in 2018 and has already contracted Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop a mission concept study.
It is unclear just how Mars One will pay for its ambitious plans, which it estimates will cost about $6 billion. In a news release this month, the nonprofit said it would look for funding in exclusive partnerships and sponsorships.
It also launched an Indiegogo campaign. With 24 days left in the campaign Wednesday, Mars One had raised $110,791 of the $400,000 goal.