For tens of thousands of people, race to Mars already has begun

Two planned private expeditions to Red Planet drawing heavy interest from Earthlings

Credit: Image credit: Flickr/FlyingSinger

The actual expeditions are years away, but already tens of thousands of people have applied to be among the first humans to travel to Mars -- even though they know they may never return to Earth. Seriously, what's up with that? Maybe some of them think they're applying to just another reality show. After all, the Mars One project is being paid for through a global, multi-year reality television series. Hopefully these people understand that this "show" is quite a bit different than eating worms, backstabbing other contestants on an island or living with a smelly, difficult roommate. We're talking about leaving Earth, never to return. We're also talking about potential instant death in the pitiless environment of space or, should they be so lucky, in the pitiless environment of the Red Planet. Here's physics professor and Nobel Prize winner Gerard 't Hooft, an "ambassador" for the Mars One project, talking to New Scientist:

So far, almost 40,000 people from all over the world have applied to become Martians. This is many more than I had imagined, although some psychologists and cultural anthropologists had apparently predicted there would be at least a million candidates. Everyone is now being asked about their motivation, and thousands of replies have already been collected.

It'd be interesting to see what the Mars One folks consider to be psychological or motivational deal-breakers. Asked why they want to live on Mars, I would hope these types of replies might eliminate candidates: * I hate humans * I hate Earth * I have a death wish * I plan to return to Earth with superpowers and destroy you all * This will increase my odds of being picked for The Amazing Race! In other words, it's important to eliminate the crazy people. Meanwhile, Inspiration Mars Foundation already has attracted "a ton of applications," Jane Poynter, president of Paragon Space Development Corp., an Inspiration Mars partner, tells This, even though the project isn't taking applications yet. Unlike Mars One, which is offering a one-way ticket, Inspiration Mars is planning a fly-by and return trip to Earth for a lucky couple willing to...well, here's how describes it:

They'll be crammed into a space the size of an RV for more than a year, breathing recycled air, subsisting on dehydrated food and drinking their purified urine. If they die, they'll be freeze-dried in a body bag. And if they survive, they'll have to re-enter Earth's atmosphere at a screaming 8.8 miles (14.2 kilometers) per second.

Compared to worms, purified urine is easy! Instant death in space, not so much. Think this through, Earthlings. Now read this:

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