Meet Willard Sollano Daniac.
The 36-year-old electrical inspector from the Philippines—who calls himself a joker and says he dabbles in the physical sciences—is currently the most popular applicant by far on a website recruiting for permanent human settlers to Mars. (See Mars pictures.)
Daniac and more than 100,000 other eager applicants have signed up for the Mars One project, a plan to send humans to Mars—on a one-way trip—starting in 2022. (Related: "Ancient Mars Was Snowy, New Model Suggests.")
The Mars One team plans to pick 40 astronauts from the more than 100,000 applications received from people worldwide. The crew will spend eight years undergoing specialized training in an isolated location to learn skills like dental work and electrical maintenance. In 2022, four of them will be launched into space on a one-way trip to Mars—with more astronauts slated for future missions. (See: "Mars Gets Its Close-Up.")
To help the team winnow down the applicant field, we watched dozens of videos from the Mars One website, deciding who had the skills and the fortitude to take a giant leap into space. These were several of our favorites:
Bjorn is a 22-year-old Swedish guy who calls himself a "harmonic person." This easygoing space fanatic says he would be the perfect candidate because he's done everything he's wanted to do on Earth—which leaves Mars wide open. (Related: "Mars Curiosity Milestone: Top 5 First-Year Discoveries.")
Kitty Kane is a 23-year-old American who says she's "excited about space travel, but ... more excited about the colony itself." She wants to paint the Martian landscape and juggle during her time on the red planet. "I want to go to Mars because I like eating food out of pouches," she says, as she demonstrates ... eating food out of pouches. (Watch video of Curiosity's "Seven Minutes of Terror.")
Brazilian Air Force member Silva Neto calls himself a "simple guy with big dreams." He wants to go to Mars because he doesn't "want to see history pass through his eyes." To demonstrate his dedication, Neto's video was filmed in front of a large Martian landscape. "My name is Silva Neto and I'll see you here," he says, pointing to the picture behind him. (Also see: "Mysterious Martian Grooves Carved by Dry Ice Chunks?")
Canadian high school teacher Jo—who enjoys pondering, dreaming, and laughing—says she's willing to give up everything she knows to be a part of the mission. "It would be crazy," she says. "I can go at any time. I don't have any dependents. Call me." She also says her sense of humor would help drive the long, one-way mission forward. "I like puns," she reveals. "I like slapstick. Unless it hurts, in which case it's not so funny."
Self-described "aspiring astronaut" Rickard Feiff from Sweden says as long as he can remember, he's loved "exploring, adventures, and the advancement of the human race." His interests include games, socializing, and long walks. "I've had a full and very wonderful life and would regret nothing if I did something completely different," he says.
Mike from Washington, D.C., wins points for posting one of the most creative videos. Using green screens, Mike goes from the surface of the red planet-where he makes a case for himself-before trapezing around the Earth, with props like a backpack and a clown nose. "The time for mankind to live on Mars is now," he says. "Mars has abundant resources, research values, and could teach us to live on our own planet. But learning to live on Mars will be essential for our own survival, if anything threatens our own planet."
Olga, a 31-year-old Russian, whispers at the start of her video, "Somebody help me ... He wants to send me to Mars." The "he" she's referring to is her husband, who filmed Olga from a variety of angles as she makes her case—somewhat unwillingly, it seems—for astronomical success. "I have no sense of humor," she says at one point. Yes, but the video—which includes the Olympic theme music—is quite funny.
Theresa was 20 when she participated in the Utah-based Mars Desert Research Station project. "My crew and I were dropped in the Utah desert, 30 minutes away from helicopter rescue, to live for two weeks," she says. "Complete strangers. Eight-foot diameter. And no working toilet." Six years later, she hasn't been dissuaded from her red planet mission. "I am the perfect candidate because I can do anything with duct tape," she says. "Anything. And I am able to lead, follow, destroy, create. I am a mildly good cook. I haven't killed anybody yet."
If you haven't applied yet, there's still time. Applications for the mission can be submitted through the end of August 2013. Anyone over 18 can apply by posting a video and answering some questions about their interest in the red planet. There's a fee for signing up—it's on a sliding scale ranging from $5 to $75, depending on the wealth of your home country. (For Americans, the cost is $38; so far, more than 30,000 Americans have signed up.)
But—and this is a big but—the application fees don't cover the cost of putting the first people on Mars; the company says those fees will top $6 billion. That amount will cover the technology needed to send astronauts to Mars, as well as some operational costs. A huge funding gap exists, and Mars One won't reveal just how much money they've raised thus far. The ticker on their website indicates they have $115,981 in donations. And about the other $5.9 billion?
That might come from corporate investors, application fees, and possibly a reality TV show, about 10 years in the future. The Mars One website notes that "a big audience has a lot of value," pointing to the Olympics as an example.
So will we see Real World: Mars in about a decade? It remains unclear. But if you have a bit of cash to blow—and want to apply to be an astronaut-slash-possible-interplanetary-reality-show-contestant—it's now time to reach for the stars. Or should we say Mars?