Mars One, the organization attempting to send small teams of astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars, has made its first round of applicant decisions, selecting just over 1,000 people to move on to the next stage of what it hopes will be a decade-long, televised training and colonization mission. Today, 1,058 of the roughly 200,000 people who applied were told that they had made the cut. Between 2014 and 2015, all but a few dozen of those will be weeded out, leaving a final set of four-person teams that will theoretically begin heading to Mars by 2025. Before then, though, there's a long process of testing, prototyping, and fundraising ahead of the company.
Mars One's proposal for private colonization has elicited both enthusiasm and skepticism, particularly because the actual process bears similarities to a reality TV show. The exact details of the next rounds haven't been nailed down, but applicants could be given interviews or asked to complete group challenges meant to test their "physical and emotional capabilities," with everything recorded for eventual TV broadcast; in later rounds, audiences will be allowed to help with the selections. "We fully anticipate many of our remaining candidates to become celebrities in their towns, cities, and in many cases, countries," said co-founder Bas Lansdorp in a statement. A documentary, One-Way Astronaut, already profiled a handful of applicants from the first round.
Currently, Mars One is in talks with a few TV studios about the project; sponsorships and media partnerships are meant to help fund the trip, along with investment from individual benefactors. Most recently, an Indiegogo campaign, launched in mid-December, has raised $100,000 of a $400,000 goal with about a month left on the clock. That money will go towards paying Lockheed-Martin and satellite company SSTL for concept studies in preparation for an unmanned test flight in 2018. If successful, the flight will put a satellite in orbit around Mars and a lander on the surface, allowing Mars One to conduct experiments and set up a live-streaming camera on the planet's surface.
Lansdorp described the process of winnowing hundreds of thousands of applicants (a number that still fell under the organization's original goal) as "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," noting that a couple recorded application videos naked. The United States has the strongest showing in the second round with 297 applicants, and 458 come from the Americas in general. After that, 282 are from Europe and 218 from Asia, including 52 from Russia and 62 from India — the largest national envoys outside the US and Canada. A total of 107 countries have candidates in the second round, with a gender split of around 55 percent male and 45 percent female. For those who didn't make it in, Lansdorp says Mars One may take more applicants at an unspecified later date.