(Photo : Community Commons/courtesy NASA)
Tens of thousands of Earthlings apparently want to go where no one has gone before, and stay there.
Dutch company Mars One, which began accepting applications just over two weeks ago for volunteers who want to be trained as astronauts and then possibly sent to colonize Mars, reports it's already received 78,000 applications for the training gig and trip.
Those selected for the first colonization effort are scheduled to leave in 2022, land on the red Planet seven months after that - and stay there for the rest of their lives.
"With 78,000 applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history," said mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp. "These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants."
The space travel company has been inundated with applications from throughout the Blue Planet, so now must start sifting through the files to figure out who will be in the group of candidates to reach the reality show round of the competition, where they will be whittled down to an even-smaller group of four finalists.
Anyone 18 or older may apply for the mission via video, but there is an application fee that varies depending on the wealth of an applicant's home country. For applicants from the United States, the fee is $38.
The money from the application will go toward funding the mission. Considering the number of would-be Mars settlers that have already applied, the project has already raised somewhere between $390,000 and $5,850,000.
In the last stage of the selection process, when 24-40 candidates will have been fully trained and qualified, the final decision on which contestants will be Earth's first colonists on Mars will be decided by an audience vote.
"This is an international mission and it is very important for the project that anyone anywhere can ask themselves: Do I want this? Am I ready for this? If the answer is yes then we want to hear from you," said Lansdorp.
"Gone are the days when bravery and the number of hours flying a supersonic jet were the top criteria for selection...Now, we are more concerned with how well each astronaut works and lives with the others - and for a lifetime of challenges ahead," Former NASA researcher Norbert Kraft, Mars One's medical director, was quoted saying by the Daily Mail.
Mars One intends to raise money to help fund the project through a global reality TV show, which will select the first 24 candidates for the Mars mission and follow their training.
Show viewers will be able to vote for which potential Mars settlers should be on the first team of four to leave Earth.
It's anticipated that by 2033 the Martian colony will reach 20 settlers.