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PROVO — Eight Utahns are among 1,058 finalists who are vying for a spot on a mission to colonize Mars. They were recently whittled down from just over 200,000 applicants from all over the world.
Kitty Kane, a hairdresser from Provo, is one of the candidates and she said she knows she will have to leave her life behind. However, if selected, she said she would take a one-way trip to the red planet.
"There's a lot of good you can do, going to space for humanity," Kane said. "I didn't ever think that a regular civilian could be the first person to go to Mars, but that's what's happening."
The venture, organized by Mars One, is backed by several aerospace companies including SpaceX and Lockheed Martin. It's privately funded, and its creators hope to garner donations from the public through their website, and ultimately by creating a reality show type program where people will be able to vote for their favorite candidates.
"I thought it was a brilliant plan," said Cody Reeder, a Physics major at Westminster College. "Shows like American Idol on television, make billions of dollars. That would be enough to send someone to Mars."
The never-to-return commitment is harder for some than others. Ken Sullivan of Farmington has a family of four children.
"My wife made sure I got a couple million dollars worth of life insurance before I signed up," Sullivan said, smiling. "My wife and I have discussed this as well, and it is very difficult, the whole process of leaving and never coming back."
While most of his kids will be in college by the time a manned spacecraft is set to launch in 2022, he said his fascination with space is hard for them to understand too.
"My one daughter doesn't want me to go at all," Sullivan said.
The current pool of candidates will be reduced to 40, who would then undergo several months of training. Finally, four would be selected to land on Mars in 2023. Every two years after, four more astronauts would be added to the colony.
There are also many dangers that come with living on Mars. Candidates said meteorites, radiation, and extended amounts of time in reduced gravity are risks they're willing to take.
"I'm intimidated," said Will Robbins, an employee at Clark Planetarium said. "It's like moving to the Amazon where there are a thousand ways you can die."
Still, he said the investment is worth taking part in making history.
"I care about innovation and the future and making a difference." Robbins said. "The longer I stay on Mars, the more difference I can make."
If successful in raising the funds, Mars One plans on launching a satellite to Mars in 2016, followed by rovers in 2018 that will build the colony in preparation for humans.