(CNN) — Step right up and prove why you should get a one-way ticket to Mars! But wait -- you might want to know a little more about this venture first.
A Dutch company called Mars One is looking for volunteer astronauts to fly to Mars. The search began Monday. Departure for the Red Planet is scheduled for 2022, landing seven months later in 2023.
The space travelers will return ... never. They will finish out their lives on Mars and die there, representatives from the nonprofit organization said.
"It's likely that there will be a crematorium," said CEO Bas Lansdorp. "It's up to the people on Mars to decide what to do with their dead."
The one-way ticket makes the mission possible because it greatly reduces costs, and the technology for a return flight doesn't yet exist, according to Mars One's website. But at a news conference Monday, Lansdorp maintained that "no new inventions are needed to land humans on Mars."
The biggest obstacles, he said, are financial.
The company has revealed some of its sponsors and hopes to gain much of its funding from media coverage. But it's not clear whether enough money will be collected in time to get humans to Mars in 10 years.
And there are practical issues: Can all of the kinks of having a sustainable system for people to survive in such a harsh environment as Mars be worked out by 2023?
"Questions of reliability and robustness have to be answered before we leave Earth," Grant Anderson of Paragon Space Development Corporation, which is joining the Mars One effort, told reporters. Paragon builds and operates life support systems.
Anyone may apply, for a fee
The company announced a casting call for candidates at a news conference Monday at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City.
Anyone over age 18 may apply via video for a seat on board the rocket, but there is an application fee. For U.S. applicants, it's $38.
The money collected will fund the mission, which won't be cheap.
Mars One wants to build a colony on the red planet and grow the colony with an ever-expanding crew and sustain their lives where no one has lived before.
The group has an ambitious plan for testing the technology that would transport people and things. The group wants to launch a supply mission that will land on Mars in October 2016. A "settlement rover" will land in 2018, according to the group's website. In sum, the landing systems used to transport humans will be tested eight times before they're used, which Lansdorp says would make this "much safer than moon missions."
The colony's budget comes in at "about $6 billion," Lansdorp said. "The $6 billion is for the first crew that goes there." By comparison, the rover Curiosity, the most advanced and biggest man-made robot to ever move around on Mars, is a $2.5 billion mission.
Where exactly the $6 billion will go in the next 10 years remains a mystery. Lansdorp said at the news conference that he did not want to reveal an itemized budget because of competition.
Mars One intends for a second crew to join the first one in 2025, and more will follow regularly. Each flight will carry two men and two women, so reproduction on Mars would be feasible but not intended.
"We will certainly not send couples," Lansdorp told CNN.
At the news conference, Lansdorp said he is personally interested in going to Mars but isn't currently planning on it for personal reasons.
"I have a really nice girlfriend, and she doesn't want to come with me, so I'm staying right here." He would go, however, if his girlfriend came along.
Are they for real?
The idea of landing humans on Mars in 10 years and starting a colony seemed so out of this world that CNN contacted one of the mission's potential suppliers to check on Mars One's credibility.
"I don't think they deserve to be dismissed," said a spokesman for an aerospace company that contracted for NASA's current Mars mission. The spokesman did not want to be named and did not want his company named, because he did not want to damage the company's relationship with Mars One. But he felt he should talk to CNN to help put the Dutch start-up into perspective for a news audience.
With space opening up to the private sector, many companies large and small are coming up with creative ideas to get in on the game, he said.
Mars One's idea is one of the most audacious ones. "Mars is a stretch. It's the furthest out," he said. But he is not counting it out completely.
Strange, dangerous mission
As far as getting to Mars, Lansdorp said his organization is in discussions with SpaceX, the company that has now completed two commercial missions to take cargo to the International Space Station. The idea would be to use a slightly enlarged version of the Dragon capsule and land with retro-propulsion, not by parachute.
If they get there, Mars astronauts will face a lonely life of danger, subsisting for extended periods on dried and canned food.
Once they land on Mars, they will get some of their water by recycling their urine.
They will have to take care of sickness and injuries themselves. "There will be emergencies and deaths," Lansdorp said. "We need to make sure that crew members can continue without those people."
Mars astronauts will have to be mentally fit to deal with the unusual stresses, he said. "Their psychological skills will be the main selection criteria we will use."
Once selected, a group of 40 astronauts will undergo seven years of training before leaving.
The flight to Earth's neighbor, with its barren red desert landscape and thin carbon dioxide atmosphere, sounds almost worse than a lifetime on it. The crew of four will be cooped up on a rocket for seven to eight months with a limited supply of food and water.
It also might not smell nice.
"This will not be easy," Mars One's website reads. "Showering with water will not be an option."
Lansdorp is looking for astronauts up for the challenge and sacrifice of a lifetime.
"A one-way mission to Mars is about exploring a new world and the opportunity to conduct the most revolutionary research ever conceived, to build a new home for humans on another planet," his website reads.
Mars, the greatest show on Earth
Mars One plans to fund the mission partly from the sale of technology developed during the mission, Lansdorp said. It will share it with its potential suppliers. Mars One lists them on its website.
Media coverage will provide the main funding for the mission, Mars One said.
"Not unlike the televised events of the Olympic Games, Mars One intends to maintain an ongoing, global media event, from astronaut selection to training, from liftoff to landing," it says on its website.
Publicity is key, and the media event begins now with the casting of the astronauts.
To garner the needed revenues consistently, the event will have to remain very popular. For comparison, the NCAA projects it will take in $700 million for television broadcast rights in 2013 for all its college sports games.
Lansdorp said he has spoken with media experts and ad agencies. He feels confident that life on Mars will remain a hit for decades for media consumers back on Earth.
"If humans land on Mars, everyone will want to watch," he said. "It will be bigger than the Olympic Games."
He says he believes it will garner so much attention and rake in so much advertising revenue that funding for the mission will hold up perpetually, even through financial crises and wars on Earth -- long enough to sustain a large crew of astronauts for the extent of their lives.
"This will change the world of advertising," he said.
If all goes well, back on Earth, television viewers can look forward to a decades-long reality show, but cameras will not cover the astronauts live at all times. They will be allowed to turn the cameras off, Lansdorp said.
It's not just about the hype
The spokesman for the aerospace company credits Mars One for creating a media spectacle and marrying it to technology.
"They very aggressively seem to be pursuing the reality-TV angle," he said.
It has gotten the small company from the Netherlands to a stage that it can begin feasibility studies with well-established aerospace companies, he said. It is helping scientists to work on ideas they otherwise would not have been able to.
"It may fund development that would otherwise not get funded," he said. That's why he's taking Mars One seriously.
Lansdorp and his team may never fulfill their big dream of establishing a colony on Mars, but they will probably fulfill some smaller ones on the way.
The aerospace spokesman is hopeful.
"We can't predict how far they'll get."
And if this mission flops before it launches, Lansdorp already has some ideas about what the nonprofit would do with any leftover money: Donate it to organizations that support space travel, such as the Planetary Society.
You might be thinking that $6 billion would be better spent on Earth, but Lansdorp says $600 million over 10 years isn't going to make a big influence on our own planet.
And besides, he says: "I don't have a business case to solve the problems on Earth. I have a really good business case to get humans to Mars."
CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.
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