Mars One astronaut applications near six-digit mark

About a month ago, a rather ambitious plan was unveiled – to colonize Mars with astronauts who will never return to Earth. With such a harsh reality – never seeing loved ones or, well, earth again – it would reasonable to expect such a project to have trouble finding volunteers. Such was not the case, however, with the organization behind it, Mars One, seeing a flood of applications almost immediately. It has been a few weeks now, but the latest numbers show no slowing in those who hope to call Mars their second home.

The project and application process was revealed to the public on April 16. By April 29, just three days after opening to video applications, over 20,000 people had applied. It has now been about two weeks, and the latest numbers show applications quickly heading towards the six-digit mark at 78,000, a small number compared to the half a million or more Mars One expects to have by the application deadline on August 31. Most of the applicants are located in the United States, but applications have been received from 120 different countries.

How will Mars One select who goes? Via a reality TV-esque public voting process.

There are four "rounds" to the application process, with the first requiring those interested to pay $25 and submit a video explaining why they want to spend the rest of their lives on Mars. In August when the submission process is closed, the tens of thousands of videos will be sorted through for those who will be sent on to the next round. In Round 2, the applicants-turned-candidates will be sent off to their local doctor for a full physical, then if they're giving the physical go-ahead, will meet with the regional Mars One selection committee. Round 3 is when the quasi-reality TV aspect of the process comes into play, with between 20 and 40 candidates per country competing for votes from viewers across the world, with the top in each country going on to Round 4.

Round 4 is much the same as the last round, only with less candidates and without public voting. Those remaining will need to speak English by this point if it isn't their main language, and will need to demonstrate their skills as part of their group they're assigned to in a simulation of a Mars outpost, where they're begin training. Some who can't handle the training will go on to become Mars One employees instead. This round will also be broadcasted around the world.

So who are the folks ready to eschew the world they've always known and fly off into space, never to return again? You can find out for yourself by watching their public application videos over on the Mars One website.

SOURCE: TIME and Mars One