Meet some of the people who want to go to Mars

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Voices - Katrina Wolfe - Why I want to go to Mars

Mars One, a Netherlands-based venture, says more than 200,000 people want to go to Mars. What sort of person wants to take this one-way ride?

What would it be like to live — and die — on Mars?

That intriguing question has more than 200,000 people around the world interested in finding out firsthand.

Mars One, a Netherlands-based nonprofit organization that plans to establish a permanent human colony on the red planet by 2023, says 202,586 people from more than 140 countries have registered their interest by the Aug. 31 deadline for a one-way trip to Mars.

Mars One didn't reveal how many of them have actually plunked down the application fee — which ranges from $5 to $75, depending on where they live — to be eligible for consideration in the next round. Departure for the lucky few is scheduled for 2022, landing seven months later, in 2023. The travelers will finish out their lives on Mars.

'TOSCA' FROM MARS

The organization said some applicants see scientific merit to colonizing the second-smallest planet in the solar system, while others are adventure-seekers or looking for a dramatic life change.

Then, there's Aurelio Gabaldon of Spain, a 35-year-old opera singer who has degrees in forest engineering and geology. On his video application, he explains that music is one of the most universal ways to inspire feelings and emotions — so why not from Mars?

"To celebrate the success of the mission, I would like to sing for all the human beings at the same time a beautiful aria by Puccini from the opera 'Tosca,'" Gabaldon said.

About one of every four applicants is from the U.S. Among them is Austin Bradley, 32, a student at George Mason University in Virginia and a former Army imagery analyst and paratrooper.

"I have volunteered for this mission for the following reason: We have only one chance at life, and I want mine to mean something," Bradley told MSN News on Tuesday. "If I can use my life to advance the understanding of humanity in a way as big as this mission will accomplish, the decision is easy for me."

Leila Zucker, an emergency-room physician at Howard University Hospital in Washington, said her medical training is perfect for the mission. "I am able to make life-and-death decisions instantly. I work with a small group of highly intelligent, well-trained individuals under extremely stressful conditions. I am on display to the public during every shift (bathroom breaks only), and must coexist peacefully with everyone who presents for treatment," she told MSN News.

Zucker said her husband of 21 years emailed her the link to the application. "He doesn't want me to go because he would miss me, but he supports my dreams unconditionally."

Vinod Kotiya, who works for a large electricity producer in India, said not everyone gets a chance to become a part of history.

"I believe that each human being is here to complete the karma — good or bad. I never ran away from my responsibility toward my family. If going to Mars is destined in my karma, then I have to perform this by detachment from this materialistic world," he said. "Even if you die, you have to leave everyone here."

REALITY TV

From the applicant pool, a review panel will winnow the field in three additional rounds over the next two years. By 2015, up to 10 teams of four individuals will be tapped for seven years of full-time training. In 2023, if all goes to plan, the first team will fly to Mars and live there for the rest of their lives.

Mars One hopes to broadcast the entire mission — from selection to training to stepping foot on the planet — as a global reality TV show to recoup the estimated several billion dollars in expenses for what co-founder Bas Lansdorp has described as "one of the biggest events in human history."

After the U.S. (24 percent), the countries with the most number of applicants are India (10 percent), China (6 percent), Brazil (5 percent) and Great Britain, Canada, Russia and Mexico (each with 4 percent).

'I'LL MISS THE FOOD!'

Whether the Mars colonization will proceed on schedule — or ever — is up for debate. Many have questioned whether the technology exists to conquer such inhospitable problems as radiation and lack of oxygen. Some suspect the whole project is a hoax.

Not so for those who have volunteered to go.

"The prospect of never coming back is quite scary BUT the prospect of going down in history and doing something so outstanding as this project is well worth the challenge," said Melissa Ede, a 52-year-old transsexual taxi driver in the U.K.

"It will be hard, of course. Every day I think about it when I walk my dogs in the morning. I'll miss the trees, the air, the insects and sounds of nature. I'll miss the food!" said Bradley.

"One-way contact (video form of snail mail) will still be possible, and I'll be making a new family in our small team of four and those that follow, but leaving my friends and family on Earth will leave a hole in my heart."

You can find out more about all the Mars One applicants here.

Related: Life on Mars to be filmed

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Related: Katrina Wolfe: Why I want to go to Mars

More than 200,000 apply for one-way trip to Mars

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