Although the first step of Mars One’s application process is going to finish on August 31 and official numbers have not yet been released, CNN reported that more than 100,000 people have already applied for a one-way trip to the Red Planet. Mars One reported that even more have shown their interest, but they have not yet completed the application process and paid the fee.
Mars One’s project aims to colonize Mars, sending a group of four people every two years beginning in 2023. Technical and financial planning have not been disclosed yet but that did not stop many Mars enthusiasts from applying. In order to be eligible for the next selection steps, the applicants have to prepare a short video in which they explain their reasons and pay a reasonable fee depending on the user’s nation. The fee is pegged to a nation’s gross domestic product, for example $38 in the US, $26 in Italy, $15 in Mexico. Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder, explained that the fee had to be high enough for people to have to really think about it and low enough for anyone to be able to afford it.
Mars One applications will not likely reached one million, as initially optimistically predicted by Lansdorp, but the idea of spending a lifetime in small modules on the Red Planet anyway attracted many people. The US is at the top of the list of 140 countries where applicants are from with 23% of the total, equal to about 38,000 people, followed by China, Brazil, India, Russia, the UK, Mexico, Canada, Spain and the Philippines.
“The cultural diversity of Mars One applicants reflects the international nature of this project and ultimately makes it humanity’s mission to Mars,” says Lansdorp.
“The response to the first round of the Astronaut Selection Program has been tremendous,” says Dr. Norbert Kraft, Chief Medical Officer of Mars One. “We now have a large group of applicants from where we can start our search. Finding the best crews of qualified and compatible individuals is crucial to the success of our mission.”
However, some of these people were obviously making fun, like the Australian guy wearing a tin foil hat and willing to leave Earth to escape from an alien race. Other people have been more serious and the fact that they will be not coming back has not scared the potential next inhabitants of Mars. We interviewed a few of these potential interplanetary travelers asking them why they chose to apply.
“I believe the idea behind Mars One is a fantastic one,” says Christopher A. Vasko, Co-Chair at Space Generation Advisory Council. “If they succeed, this may represent the biggest challenge mankind faced since the Apollo missions. No country can afford a space race as the one that propelled our creativity and put a man on the moon. A broad, crowd sourced approach is a new one – there is no longer need to find scientific or political reasons to intend to try it. The potential for education and outreach of a reality show like that is immense.”
Love of exploration is what convinced Andrea Boyd, an Australian engineer and International Space Station operator, to apply. “I’ve explored most of the Earth and I want to keep going,” says Boyd.
To increase the outreach of the project, Mars One is also promoting “One way astronaut,” an independent documentary following four aspiring astronauts willing to spend their lives on the Red Planet. The documentary also features interviews with experts discussing the likelihood of Mars One succeeding and the kind of risks astronauts can expect. The documentary is available, for streaming or download, after paying a small fee; half of the proceeds generated from this documentary will be donated to the Mars One Foundation.
However, money obtained from the application fee and from the documentary, is anyway crumbles in comparison to the $6 billion of dollars needed – that is the estimated cost of a settlement on Mars. One hundred thousand applicants can be considered a great result if you compare it with the numbers gathered by traditional crowdfunding campaigns. For example, Planetary Resources managed to attract a little less than 18,000 backers to its Kickstarter campaign to fund Arkid-100 space telescope, for a total of more than $1.5 million. However, considering the big picture, which is, again, sending humans to Mars, the number of applicants may be considered too low to secure the exposure needed in the next phase to attract potential new and rich sponsors.
“Ultimately, if humanity leaves Earth it will be in a form like Mars One – picture a team of astronauts finally crawling out of their shuttle on the surface,” says Vasko. “Epic words, the first footstep on an alien planet…and in the footprint, a huge Nike Logo. The value of an image like that is hard to fathom. Commercial space is the future, one of the ways ahead to face the biggest challenges of our times.”
Have you applied for MarsOne? If so, tell us what is your reason to wish being among the first colonizers of Mars.
Below, One Way Astronaut’s trailer.