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Californians vying for one-way trip to Mars

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POSTED February 22, 2015 6:38 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A dozen Californians are finalists vying for a one-way private trip to establish the first permanent human settlement on Mars.

U-T San Diego reports that the 143-million-mile trip organized by a Dutch not-for-profit group called Mars One is expected to take place in 2024.

The group has selected 100 finalists, including 50 men and 50 women from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Those selected include doctors, teachers, scientists, a singer, artist and workout instructor.

Out of the 100, 24 will ultimately be chosen as future Martians, whose experiences will be filmed and aired on television. Funds for the estimated $6-billion trip are expected to be raised by corporate sponsors.

The first crew of four people will arrive on Mars in 2025 after a cramped seven-month trip. The remaining 20 future Martians will join the settlement every two years afterward.

Thirty-two-year-old Carmen Paul of Chula Vista, California, was selected for the third round out of an initial 202,586 applicants.

“I don’t just want to sit there and watch it when it happens,” she said in her 2013 astronaut application video. “I want to be there and I want to be a part of it.”

Paul has served in the military for 14 years and says she’s the perfect candidate because of her willingness to take risks, training in computer technologies and witty humor.

The Sacramento Bee reports (http://bit.ly/1DHwLro ) that Kristin Richmond, 32, of Folsom, is another California finalist.

The civil engineer with the California Department of Water Resources and UC Davis graduate would leave behind her husband and parents. Richmond said that while her husband isn’t thrilled by the prospect, “he wouldn’t keep me from pursuing my dreams.”

She said she sees the mission and her potential televised role as a way to inspire young women to pursue careers in engineering and technology.

The astronauts will live in hut-like units and have to wear spacesuits to journey outside where the average temperature is 80 degrees below zero. The atmosphere on Mars is mostly carbon dioxide and it has a third of Earth’s gravity.

“You need people who are really smart, work really well under pressure and can make difficult decisions,” said UC Davis professor Dawn Sumner, who is a Mars expert.

The experience would be a real-life televised experiment of the impacts of such living conditions on astronauts’ immune systems and overall health.

While some have questioned if technology today is adequate for such an endeavor or if the trip is a publicity stunt, it has captured the imagination of the applicants and observers.

“There’s always been a segment of humans willing to do” what no one has before, Sumner said. “They’re the ones that blaze new trails and pave the way for the rest of us who want a little more security.”

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