Last summer, more than 200,000 people applied for a one-way ticket to Mars. Last week, 1,058 of them were selected to move on to the next round.
The applications were not sent to NASA or another national space agency, but to a nonprofit organization called Mars One. Based in the Netherlands, Mars One put out a call in April for applicants to move to Mars. Anyone older than 18 was invited to send in a video in which they explained why they wanted to go 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 prospective volunteers, the Mars One team focused on choosing people who were physically and mentally capable of becoming ambassadors to the Red Planet, Bas Landsorp, co-founder of Mars One, said in a statement.
The pool of selected applicants includes 472 women and 586 men. More than half of them are younger than 35, but 26 are older than 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 the second round. Canada had the second-biggest showing, 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.
Over the next four years, Mars One wants to get the applicant pool down to about 40. Those selected will train in groups for seven years. And if everything goes according to plan, a global audience will then 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 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, the nonprofit said it would look for funding via exclusive partnerships and sponsorships. It also launched an Indiegogo campaign.