A non-profit group has started accepting applications for brave souls willing to travel to Mars in order to become the planet's first human colonists to Mars.
Mars One, based in the Netherlands, plans to create a reality TV show to help select the final astronauts and fund the project, which will eventually fly 24 people to the red planet in increments of four. The trip will be one way and the final set of astronauts will be selected by 2015. They will arrive on Mars in 2023.
The group plans to use SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which has already flown to the International Space Station, to carry the settlers. According to Gerard 't Hooft, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and consultant on the project, the group has already had more than 40,000 people contact them for a spot on the ship. Several applicants' audition tapes are already hosted online.
According to the group, applicants must be 18 years or older, be in "normal" physical and psychological help, be between 5 feet 1 inch and 6 feet 2 inches tall, speak one of the 11 most common languages (the official language will be English), and be willing to go through a seven-year training period. There is a registration fee for applications—for those living in developing countries, the fee is $5, with the fee topping out at $73 for applicants in Qatar. United States applications cost $38.
Applicants also have to agree to live on Mars for the rest of their lives—scientists say that flying humans to Mars is feasible, but returning them to Earth makes the project much more technically difficult and costly.
The nonprofit says that in 2022, "the people of Earth will have a vote [to decide] which group of four will be the first Earth ambassadors on Mars." Subsequent groups would be sent every two years. The entire project will be televised. Early estimates suggest that it will cost at least $6 billion to fly the first four settlers to Mars.
The plan to fund the project with TV rights is an audacious one, it acknowledges.
"Our biggest challenge is acquiring funding," the group says. "Once we do, it is on."