Hunt for Mars colonists to launch today (warning, it's a one-way ticket)

Rob Waugh
Yahoo! News
The Mars One mission will depart in September 2022

A seven-month journey in a tiny, cramped capsule doesn't sound like an attractive prospect - especially when you realise it's a one-way trip.

But 10,000 people have already contacted Dutch organisation Mars One to volunteer for a trip to Mars planned in September 2022 - due to arrive at the Red Planet on 2023. Return to Earth "cannot be anticipated nor expected", the firm says.

The search for astronauts formally launches today on YouTube and Twitter - in a reality-show-style contest to be among the first humans to live on another world. The age of volunteers so far ranges from 18 to 62, the firm said.

Four volunteer astronauts will depart Earth in a tiny capsule in 2022 - heading for a colony that has already been built by twin robot "Rovers".

The travellers will arrive to begin their new lives in April, 2023. The company aims to fund the $6billion mission using media and television events - pointing to the fact that the Olympics earned $1billion in revenue per week last year.

One of the founders of the company is Paul Romer, formerly of Endemol, the creators of Big Brother.

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“In principle, getting humans to Mars is possible now,” says Bas Landsdorp, founder of Netherlands firm Mars One, in an interview earlier this year.

The astronauts will face challenges including radiation in space during the journey - and gravity which is just 38% of Earth's. Some scientists predict that the volunteers' bodies will change so radically they could no longer survive on Earth if they returned.

“We have received more than 10,000 emails from over 100 countries, volunteering for our astronaut selection programme. A small percentage don’t know it’s one way, but most do.”

Mars One claims that its plan involves existing technologies - and is less challenging than other plans such as billionaire Dennis Tito's plan to "fly past" the Red Planet.

“Our plan involves a stay in space that’s pretty much the same as ones astronauts have already done on the International Space Station - seven months,” said Lansdorp.

“The challenges you face include using a rocket to push humans into space - we already do this for the Space Station. Mars is a bit more challenging, but the Apollo moon missions also required more energy. You also need to protect yourself against space radiation, but again this is a known risk.”

Mars One’s plan would include robotic missions to find the perfect location for a colony, then a Nasa-style 'Rover' which would build the foundations.

“Before we send humans there, a second Rover will fly in 2020,” said Lansdorp. “The robots will ensure there is oxygen, breathable air and water. Then our first pair of colonists will depart in September 2022, arriving in April 2023.”

Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, says that the eventual goal of his SpaceX company is a colony of 80,000 people on Mars - although he admitted it could cost $36billion.

“Once there are regular Mars flights, you can get the cost down to half a million dollars for someone to move to Mars,” Musk said in a speech to the Royal Aeronautical Society.

“I think there are enough people who would buy that."

Mars One aims to raise money through television events.

“Our challenge is that we have to get investment up front,” says Lansdorp. “We estimate it will cost $6billion to get the first two colonists to Mars, then $4billion per pair thereafter. But the whole world will be watching. The revenue for the Olympic games was $1billion per week - and this will be the first time humans actually leave the Earth.”