Mars One, an organization that plans to put the first humans on Mars has narrowed its applicant pool from 200,000 to 100. The goal of the Netherlands-based non-profit is to start a permanent colony on Mars – if the mission is launched, the colonists will never return to Earth.
The final group will consist of 24 individuals who will be split into six groups of four. One mission is scheduled to launch every two years starting in 2025.
The finalists will spend the next decade in training. The first phase of the process will focus on the candidates' ability to work together. The training process will be televised to raise money for the expensive mission. With a projected $6 billion price tag for each of the six planned launches, Mars One will need all of the funding it can muster. The non-profit plans to raise additional money through sponsorship and crowd-funding
“Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and word together in the upcoming challenges,” Dr Norbert Kraft, chief medical officer of Mars One, said in a press release.
Once on Mars, the astronauts will have to be completely self-sufficient with limited supplies. Therefore, training will not only test their physical and emotional readiness, but teach them everything from medical care to basic plumbing.
Finalist Maggie Leiu is excited by the idea of humans starting a civilization on another planet.
“There’d be no legal system or parliament so it would be really fascinating to see how we work out our lives,” Lieu told The Independent.
The finalists consist of 50 men and 50 women. They come from all over the world and range from 19 to 60 years old. Most speak English, although a few speak Chinese and Portuguese. They work in a variety of fields since Mars One organizers felt that the best candidates were those committed to the project and intellectually curious.
"This adventure is full of hope and curiosity – two characteristics I believe have driven humanity’s most positive steps forward. I’m ready to give up everything I know to be a part of it," Mars One finalist Joana Hindle said in her application video.
However, many questions remain about whether Mars One will be able to mount such an expedition.
A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study has raised doubts about the plan to support a human colony on Mars with current technology. MIT engineers cite potential problems such as an overabundance of oxygen caused by growing crops on the Red Planet that could lead to catastrophic problems for settlers, an untenable reliance on deliveries of spare parts from Earth, and a determination that the mission would require 15 rocket deliveries, rather than the planned six.
Though Mars One estimates that each launch will cost $6 billion, the MIT study predicts that the actual cost could much much higher. A 2009 NASA proposal for an "Austere Human Mission to Mars" put the cost at about $100 billion, though that plan included a return trip for the astronauts.
Some aerospace experts have dismissed Mars One’s mission as a gimmick. But the finalists are confident that, while the mission may not go exactly as planned, it will be an important step forward in human curiosity.
"I definitely think it will happen, but in terms of the current road map, I just don't know whether it will happen on time," finalist Clare Weedon told CNN. "A lot will depend on the unmanned missions planned for 2018."