By Elizabeth Landau, CNN.
(CNN) — Leave it all behind and start anew on a planet no humans have occupied — how does that sound? More than 78,000 people applied to go on a one-way trip to Mars, through Mars One, an organization aiming to put four people on the Red Planet by 2023.
Apparently, they are unfazed by the idea that they can never come back or that taking showers there would not be an option.
The applications came from more than 120 countries, although the United States led with 17,324 applications, the Dutch company said.
Said CEO Bas Lansdorp in a statement: “Mars One is a mission representing all humanity, and its true spirit will be justified only if people from the entire world are represented. I’m proud that this is exactly what we see happening.”
It’s unclear whether enough money will be raised to actually fulfill the plan. There are also practical issues: Can the kinks in having a sustainable system for people to survive in such a harsh environment be worked out by 2023?
It’s not too late to apply — applications will be accepted until August 31.
What Buzz Aldrin wants
Meanwhile, Buzz Aldrin has also caught Mars fever. He said in an exclusive CNN Light Years commentary that the United States should make a commitment to going to Mars.
“There’s a window of opportunity ahead for a bold, Kennedy-like proclamation that placed the nation in the 1960s on a moon-bound trajectory: ‘I believe this nation should commit itself, within two decades, to commencing American permanence on the planet Mars,’ ” he wrote.
He advocates for a permanent human presence on Mars by the 2030 to 2040 decade. If Mars One’s vision comes true, that could happen even earlier — but, again, the money and the technology need to be there to make it happen.
What Curiosity is doing
Right now, NASA’s intrepid rover Curiosity is already on the planet. The 2-ton machine has been using its sophisticated tool kit seeking evidence that Mars was once habitable.
Curiosity has been taking a four-week vacation to get some upgrades on its operating software. During this time, the rover still gathered data on the planet’s atmosphere. Mission specialists did not tell the rover to move, however. Because of the relative positions of our planet, Mars and the sun, the commands might have been blocked or corrupted.
In the coming days, Curiosity will begin moving again toward a new target, which scientists have named Cumberland. This will serve as the second place for Curiosity to try out its drill. The first drilling activity, at a rock called John Klein, brought up evidence that microbial life could have lived on the planet.
These two drilling sites are similar and are nine feet apart. An important distinction is that Cumberland seems to have more granules that cause clumps of minerals, called concretions, that formed when the rock was soaked in water long ago.
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