Mars colony project aims to preserve life forms on the red planet

The Netherlands-based nonprofit project Mars One plans to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent human colony on the red planet.

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2013, 14:31 PM IST

Washington: The Netherlands-based nonprofit project Mars One, which opened its astronaut-selection process on April 22, plans to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent human colony on the red planet.

New crews will arrive every two years thereafter, Fox News reported.

Human explorers and their trillions of microbes will doubtless contaminate whatever site is chosen for the settlement, Mars One officials said, so the organization will try to pick a place unlikely to host indigenous life.

"The most important thing is that you localize the pollution," Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said during a press conference.

"So you make sure that humans don`t go to places where there`s the highest chance of finding life, to make sure that if there is life [on Mars], that it will remain preserved," he said.

Mars One is working with experts to minimize the risks its colonization effort may pose to potential red planet life forms.

For example, the group`s advisory board includes John Rummel, who chairs the Committee on Space Research`s Panel on Planetary Protection, Lansdorp said.

It may be tough to bring those risks down too much. While Mars One hasn`t picked a precise location for its settlement yet, the organization is targeting a swath of the red planet between 40 and 45 degrees north latitude, Lansdorp said.

Sites within this band likely have enough of two critical resources - subsurface water (in the form of ice) and solar energy - to support a colony, he added.

But underground water could also help sustain microbes, whose toughness and near ubiquity continue to amaze scientists, at least here on Earth.

It`s unclear at the moment if Mars One- which will fund its ambitious settlement efforts primarily by staging a global reality-TV event around the entire process - will take a serious stab at finding signs of red planet life.

Mars One astronauts will not necessarily be scientists, after all.

Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to apply, with the selection committee prizing traits such as intelligence, resourcefulness, determination and psychological stability over academic background, officials said.