An ambitious project to establish a human colony on Mars has attracted applications from tens of thousands of would-be astronauts, just two weeks after applications opened.
The mission, a private venture by the Dutch non-profit organization Mars One, aims to send a crew to the Red Planet in 2022 – and, due to the physiological change in the human body after a stay on Mars, there’d be no coming back. That hasn’t deterred people, though: so far, over 78,000 people have applied to become one of Mars’ first immigrants (the company is expecting 500,000 applicants by the time applications close on August 31). “This is turning out to be the most desired job in history,” says Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One.
Day-to-day life on Mars will be no picnic: The organization says that the daily routine on the planet would involve construction work on the colony (installing greenhouses, for example), maintenance of the settlement’s systems and research into Mars’ climate and geological history–all in an inhospitable environment with unbreathable air and an average temperature in the planet’s mid-latitudes of around -58 degrees Farenheit.
But Mars One says it is not looking for applicants with specific skills, such as a science degree, that might be useful during an interplanetary posting. Instead, they are looking for people who “have a deep sense of purpose, willingness to build and maintain healthy relationships, the capacity for self-reflection and ability to trust.” They also want volunteers who are “resilient, adaptable, curious, creative and resourceful.” Candidates will receive a minimum of eight years training before leaving Earth, the company says.
“Gone are the days when bravery and the number of hours flying a supersonic jet were the top criteria for selection. Now, we are more concerned with how well each astronaut works and lives with the others–and for a lifetime of challenges ahead,” said Norbert Kraft, a former Senior Research Associate at NASA and Chief Medical Director for Mars One in a statement published on Mars One’s website.
Candidates hailing from over 120 countries (although the vast majority are from the U.S.) uploaded a video to Mars One’s website explaining why they’re suitable for the mission. Kyle, a 21-year-old grocery store clerk from the U.S., says he wants to be “an explorer and pioneer at the forefront of history.” Steven, a 43-year-old American who works in electronics, has even higher hopes for the mission: “I would like to go to Mars… to discover new life,” he says.
In addition to people skills, successful applicants must be good fundraisers too: Mars One plans to raise much of the mission’s $6 billion estimated cost through a reality TV show following the applicants as they undergo preparations for the one-way trip to Mars. They’ve got a little way to go yet, though: as of April 29, the money raised through donations and merchandise stood at $84,121.