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2: Free tickets to Mars ... one way only

AS holidays go, a one-way ticket to a waterless rock spinning in space some 225 million kilometres away, with a climate where temperatures can plunge down to -153C perhaps isn't one you'd imagine many folk queuing up for.

Nevertheless, around 30 Scots have applied for a spaceflight project which hopes to settle the first humans on the planet of Mars – if they don't die in the process. If the amateur astronauts manage to survive the rigours of interplanetary travel, the big question remains how they will manage to live in the barren Martian landscape – because there will not be any trip back to planet Earth.

Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp will discuss his plans for the 2023 mission during a talk taking place at this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Applicants do not have to have flying experience or even a science degree, but must be in good mental and physical health and willing to dedicate eight years of their life to training, ranging from learning how to make electrical repairs to tending crops.

The journey is expected to take seven to eight months and once there, the astronauts will live in interconnected pods and only be able to venture out with the help of a special suit to protect them from extreme temperatures, the non-breathable atmosphere and harmful radiation.

They will also need to be prepared for global fame back on Earth as the mission will be funded by making it a "Big Brother" style event, with the preparations and landing on Mars broadcast around the world.

Speaking ahead of the festival, Lansdorp revealed more than 8000 people had applied for the chance of becoming the first astronauts to land on the red planet, including around 30 from Scotland.

He said: "In 2012 we received about 1000 emails from people interested to go and in 2013 we received more than 7000 emails from more than 100 countries.

"The selection process will start in the first half of 2013. In 2015, it will finish and we will have selected about six groups of four people by then."

Lansdorp said the inspiration for the mission came after watching Nasa land the first exploration robot on Mars in 1997. Last week it emerged that another step had been taken towards showing that Mars could have once supported life after the current robot on the planet – the Curiosity rover – found evidence of an environment where water existed that would probably have been good enough to drink.

Lansdorp refuted any suggestions that his mission was a "pipe dream" that will never come to fruition or even that it is a hoax.

"We have had a team working on this for more than two years, ambassadors that are astronauts and Nobel Prize winners, advisers from Nasa and the UN, investors and sponsors from all over the world," he said. "We have confidence in our ability to solve the problems that get in our way."

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