More than 78 000 people have applied to join a one-way trip to Mars to establish a colony on the Red Planet by 2023 – and organisers expect 500 000 to have applied by the closing date of 31 August 2013.

The Mars One astronaut selection programme has received applications from more than 120 countries.

Most applications come from US (17 324), followed by China (10 241), UK (3 581), Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and India.

Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder and CEO, says: “With seventy-eight thousand applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history. These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants.
“Mars One is a mission representing all humanity and its true spirit will be justified only if people from the entire world are represented. I’m proud that this is exactly what we see happening,” he adds.

From all the applicants in Round one, regional reviewers will select around 50 to100 candidates for Round 2 in each of the 300 geographic regions in the world that Mars One has identified.

Four rounds make up the selection process, which will come to an end in 2015.

Mars One will then employ 28 to 40 candidates, who will train for around seven years. Finally, the audience of a live reality show will vote for one of groups in training to be the envoys of humanity to Mars.

“Applicants we have received come from a very wide range of personalities, professions and ages. This is significant because what we are looking for is not restricted to a particular background. From Round one we will take forward the most committed, creative, resilient and motivated applicants,” says Dr Norbert Kraft, Mars One chief medical officer.