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Mars One Colony Project to Whittle List of Astronaut Hopefuls to 40

Artist's Concept of Mars One Colony
Artist's concept of Mars One's envisioned colony on the Red Planet. (Image credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One)

Mars One — the private venture formed to send people on a one-way trip to the Red Planet — is getting ready to whittle down its astronaut hopefuls from 100 people to just 40.

In the near future (the exact date has not been announced), Mars One will hold a five-day team challenge made up of those hopefuls, Mars One representatives said in a statement. The process will start with 10 groups of 10, but the groups will change composition due to "continuous elimination," the statement said.

Group members will pick the groups themselves, adhering to certain guidelines such as having a 50-50 gender ratio and maintaining a diversity of ages and nationalities. [Mars One: A Private Martian Colony Project in Pictures]

At the end of every day, roughly 10 to 20 people will leave the selection process, Mars One representatives said in the statement. Candidates will be judged based on their performance of both indoor and outdoor activities, using such metrics as trust, problem solving, precision, communication and interdependency. Group members will rank whom they want to work with, which will be taken into account for eliminations. The candidates have also been given study materials ahead of time that they are expected to assimilate, representatives said in the statement.

Prior to Mars One's attempt to found a human colony on Mars, the Mars One group plans an unmanned scouting expedition. See how Mars One hopes to send an unmanned lander to Mars in our full infographic. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

This selection round, as well as those in the future, will be filmed, Mars One stated; Mars One did not provide  further details about filming, production, or air dates. The remaining 40 people will be placed into isolation, after which the company will reduce those in the running to 30 people. After that, the contenders will undergo a "Mars Settler Suitability Interview," according to the statement.

The organization plans to send its first uncrewed mission to Mars in 2020, with crews departing for the Red Planet every 26 months starting in 2026 (an extension of its original projection of 2024, which happened due to a lack of investment funding).

Last year, former astronaut candidate Joseph Roche criticized Mars One, alleging that the organization has a skewed selection process and that it insists candidates must raise funds to participate. In response, Mars One said fundraising was not a requirement for selection, that they plan to use private investor and sponsorship funds to back the project and that the process was scientifically rigorous.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.