No people are seemingly more eager and suited than Americans to leave the Earth for a new life on Mars.
The notion emerges from the demographics behind the 1,058 men and women selected by Mars One this week to proceed with future rounds of a global selection process by the Dutch non-profit to identify those best suited to settle the red planet. Trips are scheduled to begin in 2025.
Just more than 202,000 people from 107 nations, 24% of them from the U.S., responded to a call for applicants from the private initiative in April, far ahead of the 10% from second-place India. Moving quickly, Mars One dramatically cut the large number of September candidates to the more manageable pool of just more than 1,000 on Dec. 30.
Twenty-eight percent of those advancing in the selection process consider the U.S. home, well ahead of second-place Canada with 7%.
The competition becomes more personal for those who are moving ahead to future rounds, as the advancing candidates will be invited to meet with the Mars One selection committee if they expect to prevail through four total rounds of competition. By 2015, Mars One expects to have six to 10 four-member teams prepared to begin seven years of full-time training to start the migration to Mars.
The key challenge with such a large initial pool of applicants is identifying those physically and mentally suited for a one-way interplanetary journey, notes Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder and CEO.
“The next several selection phases in 2014 and 2015 will include rigorous simulations, many in team settings, with focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities of our remaining candidates,” said Dr. Norbert Kraft, the organization’s chief medical officer. “We expect to begin understanding what is motivating our candidates to take this giant leap for humankind. This is where it really gets exciting for Mars One, our applicants and the communities they are part of.”
The initiative faces the equally challenging prospect of raising funds for the ambitious project through crowd-funding and strategic partnerships. Mars One is negotiating media access, sponsorships and educational ties, and even marketing T-shirts, sweaters and coffee mugs to advance its program.
When it called for applicants last April, Mars One established some tough criteria, including the absence of disease and psychiatric issues, no dependencies on alcohol, drugs or tobacco, and good vision.
Mars One is stressing the importance of self-reflection among its finalists as a basis for demonstrating several high-priority qualities: resilience; adaptability; curiosity; the ability to trust and creativity/resourcefulness.
Of the 1,058 individuals selected in late December to forge ahead, 297 hail from the U.S., with the ratio of men and women split. The “top 10” is rounded out by Canada (75), India (62), Russia (52), Australia (43), China (40), Great Britain (36), Spain (27), South Africa (25) and Brazil (23).
More men than women, 586 vs. 472, were selected to compete in the next round. Most of the recent selections are between 26 and 35 years old, 235 men and 180 women. Twenty-six exceed 56 years of age now, meaning they would be well into their retirement-eligible years if they remained on Earth. The oldest candidate moving on is 81.
Most of those making the cut claim current employment, 813, or that they are students, 164.
In early December, Mars One unveiled plans for crowd-sourcing its initiatives, starting with two 2018 precursor missions, a robotic lander and a communications satellite. The lander, to be developed by, would evaluate a water extraction technology using Martian soil, power generation from thin-film solar panels and use of a camera for continuous video recordings. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. was chosen for a Mars-synchronous satellite capable of relaying high bandwidth communications of data from the lander to Earth.