A DURHAM University student is among five Britons shortlisted for a one-way trip Mars mission.
Hannah Earnshaw, 23, a PhD student in astronomy, is among the British hopefuls aiming to to become the first humans to set foot on the Red Planet.
Hannah is one of five – four women and a man – from the UK are among the final 100 candidates for the Mars One Project which plans to set up a permanent human settlement on the planet by 2024.
More than 200,000 people applied for the controversial privately-funded mission that organisers have estimated will cost six billion dollars and is set to be filmed for a reality television series.
Those shortlisted include students and researchers in physics and astrophysics, a science lab technician and a manager for Virgin Media.
Hannah said: “Human space exploration has always interested me so the opportunity to be one of the people involved was really appealing. The future of humanity is in space.
“My family is pretty thrilled. They’re really happy for me. Obviously it’s going to be challenging, leaving Earth and not coming back. I’ve had support from my friends and family and we can still communicate via the internet.”
Ms Earnshaw said she will now be tested in groups on her response to stressful situations before finding out at the end of the year if she has made the list of 24 people chosen for the mission.
There will then be eight or nine unmanned trips to Mars before the first group of four astronauts will be launched into space in 2024, she said.
Ms Earnshaw said she was “not surprised” by scepticism surrounding the project. Last year researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reportedly found that any manned mission to Mars would result in the crew dying after 68 days, while critics have pointed out that the estimated cost of Mars One is a fraction of the amount proposed by Nasa.
Ms Earnshaw said: “It’s a very ambitious mission and requires lots of things going right for humans to leave the planet. But this project is encouraging other people to talk about the wider implications.
“It’s definitely feasible. Space travel is risky but at the same time, there is a time scale in place.”
The other British hopefuls are Dr Maggie Lieu, 24, a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Birmingham, Oxford University student Ryan MacDonald, 21, from Derby, Alison Rigby, 35, a science laboratory technician, from Beckenham, Kent, and Clare Weedon, 27, a systems integration manager for Virgin Media, from Addlestone, in Surrey.
In total, 50 men and 50 women have been shortlisted from around the world, including 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven from Africa and seven from Oceania.
They were selected from a pool of 660 candidates after taking part in online interviews with the mission’s chief medical officer Norbert Kraft, where they were tested on their understanding of the risks involved, team spirit and motivation to be part of the expedition.
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One, said: “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars. These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”
Candidates that were not selected will have a chance to re-apply in a new application round that will open in 2015.