In February 2023, six cargo units are expected to land on the red planet. (Mars One website)
A non-profit organization preparing a one-way manned mission to Mars has shortlisted 52 Russians among the aspiring astronauts who want to become the first settlers to live and die on the red planet.
The Netherlands-based Mars One said it had picked 1,058 potential space travelers from a pool of 200,000 people from more than 100 countries who had applied for a spot on a flight that is expected to take off in 2024.
The largest group of applicants who made the first cut comes from the U.S., with 297 people, followed by Canada, with 75 candidates on the shortlist, India with 62, and Russia with 52, CBS News reported.
The only eligibility requirement was to be over 18 years of age, leading to an avalanche of applications for the life-changing program.
"The challenge … 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," Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp said.
"We even had a couple of applicants submit their videos in the nude," he said.
The lucky 1,058 applicants who did pass the first round will face several selection phases in 2014 and 2015 with rigorous simulations which will test their physical and emotional capabilities, the program's chief medical officer Norbert Kraft said in a statement.
Visual of the first humans landing on Mars in 2025. (Mars One website)
Mars One plans to launch the first unmanned mission in 2018 to place a communication satellite into a Mars orbit. That would be followed by a dispatch of rovers in 2020 to explore that planet and "find the best location for the settlement," Mars One said in a mission schedule posted on its website.
Before the first human crew takes off, robots would also build a "life-support system," to produce a breathable atmosphere in living units, a storage of oxygen and water, and a radiation shield, the organization said.
Mars One officials have said in the past that they plan to broadcast a reality television show to track the astronauts' selection and training process and raise funds for the mission.
The planet is a notoriously difficult one to reach, with fewer than half of all missions to Mars reaching their goal, Reuters reported.