SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Three San Diego women are in the running to be the first astronauts to set foot on Mars.
Carmen Paul, Trina Sandal and Alexandra Tischer were among more than 200,000 applicants worldwide to join a private expedition called Mars One. The mission seeks to colonize the red planet.
Recently, they were notified that they had made it to the final pool of 1,000 candidates. There’s only one catch; once they go they can't come back.
“I can’t come back. That’s it! I have to deal with it,” said Sandal, a freelance TV and film production specialist.
“It’s just going to be humans and rocks and things to discover,” added UCSD student Alexandra Tischer.
“Well, I do like the outdoors, so I’m hoping they’ll let us out for a walk every once in a while,” said Paul, who is married and works with the California Air National Guard.
CBS News 8 interviewed the candidates at the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park in front of the Apollo 9 command module. The module is little bit smaller than the Mars lander that could one day parachute them down to the surface of the distant planet.
“There's actually water in the soil there, so there is a process where they can actually bake the water out of the soil,” according to Paul.
“The hardest part is not being able to see the ocean, not having a dog to run around with, the little comforts of being on earth. That will be difficult, for sure,” said Sandal.
The Mars One company plans to build modular living spaces, including green houses for growing food, land rovers for transportation and a network of communications satellites to beam video of the astronauts back to earth.
“We could surf the internet, but we would have to have web sites downloaded overnight as we're sleeping,” said Paul.
It's $6 billion venture to be paid for, in part, by selling exclusive rights to broadcast the event as a television reality show.
“Mars is a long way away,” said NASA engineer Steve Stich. “So, to get human beings to Mars, it’s a six to nine month transit time.”
NASA is planning its own manned mission to Mars at an estimated cost of $100 billion. The space agency says it will take 20 years.
Mars One plans to do it in 10 years.
“It's interesting when you talk about one way trips,” said Stich.
“If you think back to our ancestors who came to this country from other parts of the world, they came on one way trips. However, the environment is space is a little more hostile,” Stich said.
The one-way mission allows Mars One to colonize the red planet on a reduced budget, because they don’t have to launch a rocket from the surface to Mars to get the astronauts back to Earth.
“Some people ask if it’s irresponsible to have a one-way ticket,” said Norbert Kraft, medical director with the Mars One non-profit.
“Our responsibility is to explain the risks. We’re talking about a settlement on Mars and people have a free choice to follow their dreams,” said Kraft.
A final group of 24 candidates will be trained in isolation chambers and space simulators to survive the long trip.
“There's also the risk of solar flares, so occasionally we might have to scramble into a radiation shelter to avoid that. So, that will be exciting,” said candidate Carmen Paul.
The first mission plans for a crew of four followed every two years by four more to populate a self-sustaining colony on Mars.
“There has to be some sort of order, because eventually there's going to be so many people that there has to be some sort of government,” said Tischer.
Candidates will also get medical training in case someone gets sick.
“You open up the hatch, you throw the sick person out, you close it back up. Right?” joked Sandal.
“It’s touted as a one way trip, but I have a theory that if it's a successful mission, I think everybody and their mom is going to want to go to mars,” said Paul.
“And I think the technology to return will rapidly develop,” Paul said.
Critics of Mars One have questioned whether the mission is financially feasible.
The application period for the first Mars One mission has already ended, although applications may be accepted online for future missions.