China joins rush for Mars

Updated: 2013-04-29 00:14

By WANG YING in Shanghai (China Daily)

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More than 600 applications from China have been made to join a Dutch aerospace project that plans to send humans to Mars for permanent settlement.

The project, while triggering enthusiasm to explore outer space, is also under fire, with the one-way trip being viewed by some as a suicide mission, with applicants being shipped to a planet that is uninhabitable by humans.

The project, Mars One, is being launched by a Dutch nonprofit organization, and is scheduled to take four humans to the Red Planet in 2023.

In the first three days since last Monday, as many as 20,000 people globally submitted their applications online, with more than 600 coming from China.

Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One, said he is confident of turning the dream into reality, and plans to attract more than 500,000 applicants.

He said that in the final stage, when between 24 and 40 candidates have been fully trained, the final decision on choosing the first settlers will be made by a TV audience vote.

Lansdorp said Mars One chose Shanghai as the second stop for the application press conference after New York because he believes many Chinese, including youngsters, are very interested in becoming astronauts, especially as the country already has its own astronauts.

Ma Qing, a 39-year-old bookseller, said, "I think the chance to be part of the project is a cool way for me to change a dull daily life. Besides, the air on Mars must be much cleaner and easier to breathe."

But Chang Tianxing, a space-lover from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said, "I think such a task is only suitable for senior, experienced astronauts. Exploring life on Mars, with everything starting from scratch, is mission impossible for us."

Pang Zhihao, a space expert, said the trip to Mars will require a four-member crew, including an experienced astronaut who can drive the spaceship.

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