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This does not sound like the best job in the world: Fly to Mars and never come back.
But a Dutch company, Mars One, has just launched an open call for volunteer astronauts. The plan is to send four people to Mars in 2023 on a one-way trip.
“The Mars One foundation (has started) the search for Mars inhabitants. The search for people from all nations who want to settle on Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder at the press launch in New York City.
The biggest stumbling block could be the six billion dollar bill – that is around 4.5-billion euros. The project has to self-fund by selling its broadcast rights. The selection process will take the form of a TV reality show.
“Our experts will determine who is good enough and who is not. But after that, when we have a large group of people who are all good enough to go to Mars, we will ask the audience to help us in a democratic process of deciding who is going to go to Mars. Because we feel that this is a more important election than a presidential election.” said Lansdorp.
44-year-old flight instructor Stephan Günther is from Magdeburg in Germany. He is one of the first of an estimated 10,000 candidates to apply. For him, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: “Physically and mentally I am in top shape, I’m ready-to-go. Of course, what is not quite clear to me yet is how the selection process will work. It depends on several factors. I just hope, my options are good.”
Mars One is expecting at least a million applications from people around the world. But apart from the cost, several other potential problems could hold up the mission.
“To send people there with life support, with food, with air, with all the other thing they will need – books, entertainment, means of communication and means of providing for their own resources for a long stay on Mars. That’s even more challenging, the sheer size of rockets you need to do this, would be absolutely colossal.” said Adam Baker, Senior Lecturer in Space Engineering at Kingston university in the UK.
And that’s not to mention the ethical problem of exiling people in outer space, 225-million kilometres away from home.