The window for applying to Mars One to be one of its first one-way astronauts closes at the end of this month. On Wednesday, the organization issued a release with updated figures on the level of interest this has attracted. “With ten days left before the end of its online application program, Mars One has received interest from more than 165,000 people hoping to be the first humans on Mars,” the release stated. Those 165,000-plus people come from 140 countries, with nearly a quarter of them coming from the United States.
It should be noted, though, that this doesn’t mean 165,000 people have completed their applications for Mars One, a mistake that’s easy to make. Note that the press release states that Mars One has “received interest” from 165,000, not received completed applications. Recall back in May that Mars One claimed to have 78,000 applicants, when the information on their web site, in the form of publicly-visible videos from applicants—a key step in the application process—suggested less than 1,000 people had applied. Right now, there are fewer than 1,400 videos on the web site—139 pages of 10 videos each. Applicants, of course, have the option of making their video private, but even if there are significantly more private videos than public ones, it appears that no more than a few percent of that 165,000 have completed applications (and paid a registration fee) for Mars One.
Talking to reporters at the “Million Martian Meeting” in Washington, DC, earlier this month, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp acknowledged that the number of completed applications is below the number of people who complete the first step of the process, which involves giving little more than a name, email address, and country. “Not all of those 80,000 applicants have gone through and finished their applications,” he said, referring to last number of potential applications Mars One had released at the time. “A large number of people have dropped out when they found out that they had to pay. There are quite a few people who have not finished their application,” he added, saying he was unsure if they would rush to finish their applications before the August 31 deadline or if they had changed their minds. “Not everybody who applies actually makes it to the end.”
However, he said that even the people who complete that initial registration step, but go no further, still count. “They are people who want to go to Mars,” he said. “We want to call them applicants” because they expressed an interest, even if they decided not to pay the registration fee or complete the application. “These are people who still want to go to Mars and who we consider applicants.”
Once the deadline passes at the end of this month, Mars One will convene a selection board to choose those who go on to the next round, which will require additional medical data and interviews. At the Million Martian Meeting earlier this month, Lansdorp estimated that somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of the applicants in this initial, open stage will make it on to that next round. Two more rounds will follow to come up with six groups of four people each, who will then train for the mission that Mars One hopes to fly in the early 2020s.