More than 200,000 people apply for a one-way trip to Mars
Mars One, the foundation planning to put a human settlement on Mars in 2023, has received some 202,586 applications from pioneer hopefuls eager to live out the rest of their lives on the Red Planet.
One year ago, Mars One announced big plans for the Red Planet: a human settlement. The colonizing mission, planned for 2023, would be stylized like a reality TV show, but with the added drama that its participants, the would-be first humans to set foot on another planet, will never get to go home.
Despite that caveat, the foundation announced on Monday that it has received some 202,586 applications from hopefuls eager to live out the rest of their lives on another world â or, to be, exact, within 200 square meters of combined interior space and on a swath of the barren planet accessible only when clad in a protective suit.
âIts kind of a no-brainer to me, though I know that a lot of people donât feel that way,â says Matt Ambler, a recent Yale graduate and an IT consultant in Washington DC who applied to be among the settlers.
âThis is going to be a pretty important thing to do with my life,â he says. âTalk about leaving your mark on humanity.â
Mars One reported that the applicants came from 140 countries, with about a quarter coming from the United States, 10 percent from India, and 6 percent from China. Brazil, Great Britain, Canada, Russia, and Mexico, each put up about 4 percent of the applicants. All of the countries named in the applicant pool place above 100 in the UNâs Human Development Index Ranking for 2012, with the exception of China (101) and India (136), and presumably offer a higher quality of life than can Mars.
The foundation says it will select around six teams of four individuals in 2015. Those teams will spend seven years in training, and the first team will leave for the Red Planet in 2022, arriving the following year. After that, teams will arrive on Mars every two years, and the application portal will reopen to âreplenish the training pool," according to Mars One's website.
The mission, which will be outfitted with technology purchased from private developers, to expected to cost about $6 billion, a point that the foundation has called its âbiggest problem.â
So where will that money come from? Viewers like you.
The fictional Hunger Games, imagined in the 2008 book, fed on a populationâs interest in watching people grapple with a 1-in-26 chance of being reunited with their families; Mars One expects that its pockets will brim with the investments of people eager to watch people with essentially zero odds of going home.
âPeople are interested in a manned mission to Mars; Mars One uses this interest to finance the mission,â according to the foundation's website, which cites revenue from Olympics broadcasts as evidence of what viewership can bring.
That means that, after Mars One removes the âunsuitableâ applicants â applicants must meet certain physical requirements, including perfect vision and a height between 5â2â and 6â3â â viewers will have a say in who gets ferried to Mars, never to come home again, the group says.
Already, applicants who eschewed anonymity have posted videos on the foundationâs websites describing why the public should choose them to colonize Mars.
âYou have to appeal to the public to go,â says Jessica Eicher, a senior at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Ms. Eicher's fiancĂŠ, David Barbeau, is also an applicant, and the couple expresses plans to become the extraterrestrial equivalent of Adam and Eve.
âOur shared dream is to have a family on Mars with the combined support of the entire human race,â writes Mr. Barbeau, a firefighter in Anchorage, Alaska, in his Mars One application profile. âAfter all, it takes an entire earth to raise an off world colony.â
At the moment, Mars One says on its website that it will âstrongly advise the settlement habitants not to attempt to have children,â given the unknown effects of reduced gravity on conception and fetus development.
âWe just feel like people would like us,â EicherÂ tells the Monitor. âEveryone can relate to a family.â
John Traphagan, a religion professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an advisor to Mars One, says that Mars One is above all looking for tolerant individuals who will cope well with the close quarters.
âThe capacity to work well with others is exceedingly important,â he says, noting that in addition to screening for good-natured applicants, Mars One also plans to develop training schemes to prepare the would-be colonizers for the extreme isolation.
Still, all that might not be enough to ward against the possible physiological trauma of the Mars expedition, says Dr. Traphagan.
When Mars One launched in May 2012, the brainchild of Dutch scientist and entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the blowback was immediate. Besides physical safety concerns, like the effects of radiation on the new astronauts, there were social and psychological worries: Will the group be able to emotionally withstand seven months in a cramped and noisy spaceship, where the only available food is tasteless and freeze-dried and where a shower is just not possible?
Will those astronauts be prepared to cope with living out the rest of their lives with no expectation of seeing their friends and family ever again, or without hope of again experiencing the basic comforts â or even just the lapping waters and warbling birds â of their home planet? Will living what Traphagan calls ârestricted livesâ with no prospect for travel away from the base, nor anything new to see or plan or hope for, drive the perpetual astronauts mad?
And will these recruits be prepared to live until the end with just each other, or will this be a parable of how, as Jean Paul Sartre put it, âhell is other peopleâ?
âWe donât know," saysÂ Traphagan.Â "Humans really donât have much experience off our planet. We really donât know what weâre getting into.â
To date, there have been a few studies on long-term isolation, in which participants have been quartered up and monitored for the sociological and psychological effects of such extreme togetherness. But Traphagan notes that participants in those studies benefit from a known release date.
âYou know that the year is going to end,â says Traphagan âBut on Mars, it doesnât end. Thereâs no way to simulate going somewhere and never returning.â
Mr. Ambler, among those who have posted a video to Mars One, says that he is not afraid of the one-way-ticket aspect to the mission.
âThatâs the whole point of a colony,â he says, citing the early American settlers. âYou go there and you live there.â
Of course, what happened to the England's first attempt at a settlement in the New World,Â the 1587 Roanoke Colony, remains a mystery, and Mr. Ambler acknowledges that.
âIâm really not afraid of this," he says. "You canât make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.âÂ