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Wanted: Astronauts for a one-way trip to Mars

A non-profit organization starts a global search to find candidates willing to settle on the Red Planet... indefinitely

The dream of colonizing Mars may no longer be relegated to the world of science fiction. If Netherlands non-profit Mars One succeeds in its elaborate mission, humans could be settling on the Red Planet in the not-so-distant-future of 2023. To kick-start the sweeping astronaut-selection process and begin what Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp calls "the biggest media event ever," the organization recently released its application criteria, and announced that a team of Mars One experts and viewers of a "global, televised program" will ultimately choose the first of Earth's ambassadors to Mars. Can this possibly be for real? Here's what you need to know:

Who can apply?
Just about any physically and mentally healthy person over age 18. While applicants can be from any part of the world, at least rudimentary knowledge of English would be helpful. Applicants must also be willing to dedicate eight years to training for the 2023 mission, and be "resilient, adaptable, curious, creative, and resourceful." And since this is a one-way trip, says Sam Gibbs at Gizmodo UK, "you'll also need either a deep loathing of Earth, or have nothing to live for here."

How will the selection process work?
Mars One experts and viewers of a reality show documenting the process will together choose at least six groups of four people for the mission. Only one of those groups of four will originally settle the Red Planet; the other groups will gradually journey to join them over the ensuing years.

What's the point of the reality show?
According to Mars One's business plan, the reality-show spectacle will not only allow Earthlings to help decide who will represent our planet, but will also be the main source of financing for the mission. "As entrepreneurs, we believe that the only way this will be possible in the near term is by funding it commercially," says the non-profit on its website. And by commercially, they mean "with a global media spectacle." Not only will the television show cover the selection process and preparations for the mission, but it will also eventually document the day-to-day lives of the astronauts living on Mars. "Think reality TV where the prize could be a trip to a dry, dusty world," says Nadia Drake at Wired, and just imagine that the cameras keep rolling once the winners embark on their interplanetary mission.

Can this possibly be for real?
Mars One certainly wants to assure you they're serious, and seems eager to provide curious potential astronauts with a ton of information about its plan. But only time will tell: Mars One will get its first true test in 2016, when it plans to start sending rovers, equipment, and supplies to Mars ahead of its human inhabitants.

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