Mankind's dream of setting foot on a foreign planet inched one step closer to reality (or at least reality TV) this week, when the Mars One mission announced that more than 78,000 people had submitted video applications for a chance to live on the Red Planet. The application process, which opened April 22, is being used to find a brave foursome of space explorers who will hopefully establish a permanent, self-sustainable colony on Mars by the year 2023.
Would-be Martians — who were charged an application fee ranging from $5 to $75 depending on their country of origin (U.S. citizens paid $38, for example) — are being asked to leave behind friends, family, and other Earthly pleasures for a shot at the gig.
The considerable majority of the minute-long application videos feature men in their twenties looking to get away from it all. But there are also plenty of sci-fi nerds, overly verbose college students, and others who just want to see their names etched into the history books.
"Ever since I was little all I wanted to was to travel to the heavens, the skies, to space," says one starry-eyed young man named Josh, who hails from the U.K.
"It's a great honor to create a whole new world from scratch," quips Nadia, one of the leading vote-getters who lives in New York by way of Russia.
"I've wanted to go to Mars ever since I was a little kid," says Craig. "Yeah, sure it's a crazy dream that doesn't earn as much money as the other dreams do, but it's what's kept me going through the hard times."
Former fighter pilots, these ain't.
"With 78,000 applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history," Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said in a statement. "These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants."
Safety is far from guaranteed, and the mission is fraught with danger. Mechanical failure lurks around every corner. Dangerous radiation is constantly passing through the body. A Mars-bound hero will also have to possess a tough-as-nails mental resolve, and be able to tolerate three other human bodies in incredibly cramped quarters for almost a year… without showering. (A truly heroic feat.) Plus, there's this nugget: Adventurers will most likely have to drink one another's recycled sweat and urine for all their remaining days.
Not everyone is excited by the possibilities raised by Mars One, and the mission's organizers have already met a fair share of derision. "Maybe I'm having such a hard time with it because it seems fantastic and silly, and in real life, fantastic and silly plans usually meet with harsh and unfunny ends," says Lee Hutchinson at Ars Technica:
It just seems like a ludicrous, impossible project. And not the good kind of impossible project that ends in the triumph of the human spirit overcoming the whatever blah, blah, blah — this seems like the bad kind of impossible project where people wind up dead. I wish Mars One and its applicants luck, but if they pull off even a single launch, I'll eat my hat. [Ars Technica]
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
- Boyhood's refreshingly unsentimental take on motherhood
Subscribe to the Week