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Life on Mars? Coming soon

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Callie JonesMore than 200,000 people from 140 countries have applied to spend the rest of their lives on Mars as part of a £6bn project funded by television rights. This vast number will be whittled down to a few teams of four, who will undergo eight years of training before a public vote decides which team will set off to the red planet in 2022.

Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation aiming to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars from 2023. Settlement rovers would begin to build the settlement in 2018 in a spot far enough north to contain water, equatorial enough for maximum solar power, and flat enough for construction. Oxygen would be produced from the water in the soil and from plant systems.

The initial four settlers would arrive on Mars about 210 days after leaving Earth, and their activities within the two living pods would be streamed back to Earth to create a “Big Brother”-style programme. The plan is to send four more settlers every two years. All should be well prepared, having learnt how to repair the settlement structures, cultivate crops in confined spaces and deal with medical issues such as dental upkeep and broken bones.

The astronauts will also carry out research. Among other things, they will study how their bodies respond to living in a gravitational field that is 38 per cent the strength of the Earth’s and how plants grow in hydroponic production units. They will also investigate whether there is, or ever has been, life on Mars.

Mars was selected as the most suitable planet for colonisation because of its temperature, water and atmosphere, and its days of 24 hours and 39 minutes. There is also enough sunlight to use solar panels. It was well ahead of the next closest celestial bodies: the moon, where each day lasts for a month and there is no atmosphere to protect against radiation, and Venus, with an average temperature of over 400C and bursts of acid rain.

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