More than a thousand candidates shortlisted for life on Mars
First posted: Thursday, January 02, 2014 07:41 PM EST | Updated: Thursday, January 02, 2014 07:54 PM EST
AMSTERDAM - A mission to put humans on Mars that drew 200,000 applicants has selected more than a thousand candidates who will now be tested to come up with a final list of 24 would-be Mars-dwellers.
Mars One was set up in 2011 by two Dutch men with the goal of establishing permanent human life on Mars in 2025. They hope the project will be funded by investors and the rights from the documentary-***-reality TV broadcasting of the tests, training and final selection.
The 1,058 candidates who got through to the first round come from all over the world. By far the largest number - 297 - are American, followed by 75 Canadians and 62 Indians.
They must now undergo rigorous tests, including simulations of life on Mars and coping with isolation, co-founder Bas Lansdorp said.
"The challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously," Lansdorp said.
Jacqueline Storey, a press officer at the National Maritime Museum, poses for a photograph in front of images of Mars generated by NASA's Curiosity Rover at their new Visions of the Universe exhibition, in Greenwich, London June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
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Toronto man on shortlist for Mars colonization
By Kevin Connor
First posted: Sunday, January 05, 2014 02:26 PM EST | Updated: Sunday, January 05, 2014 09:57 PM EST
Stephen Fenech is no reluctant astronaut, even though the trip he hopes to make will take him from Earth forever.
Toronto’s Fenech is now a one-percenter with the Mars One gang, a project with the goal of colonizing the fourth planet from the sun.
Mars One, a not-for-profit Netherlands-based organization behind the colonization effort, plans to make a reality TV show about the selection of the 40-person crew for the trip to the Red Planet.
Fenech said he welcomes the opportunity to participate in mankind’s first effort to sprawl across the galaxy — even though it is a one-way trip.
“I see the value in going. Our sun is getting brighter and some day it won’t support life. The only way to be prepared is to set out (to Mars) now. It’s a historic undertaking,” said Fenech, 45, who has travelled to 160 counties but never lost his childhood dream of leaving the planet.
The multibillion-dollar project — which attracted more than 200,000 applicants eager to become Martians — has just secured contracts with Lockheed Martin for the mission’s 2018 launch that will include a robotic lander and a communications satellite to start the settlement.
The 1,000 finalists will be cut to 40. That group will be sent to colonize Mars in 2023.
“We have taken some very big steps and it’s an exciting time,” Mars Once CEO Bas Lansdorp said from the company’s headquarters in the Netherlands.
He said fundraising for the 2018 launch is going well as about half of the $400,000 needed for the project’s first phase has been secured.
Aspects of the project are compelling, said Donna Frances, a research programmer with the Ontario Science Centre.
“In terms of the project’s feasibility ... it’s hard to know without them having assembled an idea for the rocket,” Frances said.
NASA has teams of engineers and scientists to accomplish such missions, but very few privately-funded companies have had success with an epic project because there is a lack of know-how, infrastructure and money.
“If NASA was to say ‘We are going to do it,’ we would say ‘OK’ and everyone would be excited,” Frances said.
“One thing that is interesting (with Mars One) is the reality show aspect. People would be able to see themselves in these astronauts and get into that dream, even if it is from afar. Mankind has a natural desire to explore. But are companies going to sponsor this on the chance it will happen?”
Fenech said that being an award-winning photographer and filmmaker helped him make the cut as he would be an asset in documenting the colonization of Mars.
Currently, he works in the control room at The Shopping Channel.
“My background in television could help with the reality show,” Fenech added.
This first round of finalists will now be put through a battery of medical and psychological tests, which are under wraps so no one can get an advantage, Lansdorp said.
There will also be group challenges to judge motivation and team skills.
Those selected to go to Mars will have to prove they have skills required to meet the needs of the colony, such as erecting solar panels and the construction of food-growing equipment — a vital component for producing oxygen.
Candidates will also be quizzed about leaving their loved ones behind.
“If I was in my 20s, I might have second thoughts. I almost got married two times, but it didn’t work out, so I would just be leaving may parents behind. Just because I wouldn’t physically be in the same space doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still be in touch with them,” Fenech said.
There were 297 U.S. candidates selected in this round of cuts and Canada had the second-highest number selected with 75.
“Canada had the highest number of applicants per capita. I don’t think it is a coincidence because they are descendents of explorers and they want to explore the final frontier,” Lansdorp said.
Fenech said he is aware there is a risk of going out in a bang when moving to another planet.
“I don’t mind being a guinea pig,” he added.
Steve Fenech, of Toronto, who is on the shortlist of candidates for a one-way expedition to Mars, seen Saturday, January 4, 2014. (Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun)
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