March 27 - A Dutch company called Mars One is looking for volunteer astronauts to participate in the first manned-mission to Mars. The company wants to send four people to the Red Planet to start a colony in 2023 although there is one catch - the successful applicants will have no way of coming back. Jim Drury has more.
German flight instructor Stephan Günther loves his wife Beate, but he's prepared to say goodbye to her......forever. The father-of-three hopes to be one of four volunteers chosen by TV viewers to travel to Mars. SOUNDBITE - STEPHAN GUENTHER, SAYING: "I am healthy, physically and mentally fit, I am ready to go. What is not clear to me yet, of course, is how the whole selection process is going to look like. It depends on many factors, but I hope my chances are good." Dutch start-up firm Mars One want to raise the six billion dollars required for a manned mission to the red planet by selling global broadcasting rights for the trip and its aftermath. Viewers will choose the winning contestants. Co-founder Bas Lansdorp says the plan is deadly serious. SOUNDBITE - MARS-ONE CO-FOUNDER, BAS LANSDORP, SAYING: "Everything we need to go to Mars exists, we have the rockets to send people to Mars, we have the equipment to land on Mars, we have robotics to prepare the settlement for humans, so for a one-way mission all the technology exists." Humans have never flown to Mars, for one simple reason.......there's no way of getting back. That's why British Mars expert Dr Adam Baker, of Kingston University, thinks the plan is unlikely to come to fruition. SOUNDBITE - DR ADAM BAKER, SENIOR LECTURER IN SPACE ENGINEERING, KINGSTON UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "To send people there with life support, with food, with air, with all the other things that they'll need, books, entertainment, means of communication, and means of providing for their own resources for a long stay on Mars, that's even more challenging, the sheer size of the rockets you'd need to do this would be absolutely colossal." But if it does happen, what does Gunther's wife Beate think about her husband leaving his family to see out his life in a cold desert world millions of kilometres away? SOUNDBITE - BEATE WIEDEN-GUENTHER, WIFE OF STEPHAN GUENTHER, SAYING: "I wasn't really involved in the decision. We talked about it and I wasn't really amazed and saying: 'Wohoo, you're flying to Mars and maybe you won't come back'. I wasn't overwhelmed with joy." Sceptics doubt the world's authorities will allow the project to dump people on a faraway planet with no way home. Yet the Mars One team says they are going ahead with planning an unmanned supply mission for 2016, followed two years later by a robotic rover, designed to build the settlement. The volunteer astronauts would land in 2023, with uninterrupted video transmission following every move of their new life on Mars.