Why David Brin wants to go to Mars (even if it's a one-way trip)

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May 20, 2013, 12:03 PM EDT

If the idea of a one-way trip to the Red Planet sounds like fun to you, you're not alone.

Last month, Dutch-based company Mars One, which hopes to launch a mission to establish a Mars colony by 2022, began taking public applications for its Mars colonist selection process. In just a couple of weeks the company got nearly 80,000 applicants, including Hugo, Locus and Nebula Award-winning sci-fi author David Brin, creator of such classics as The Postman and Startide Rising. As a guy who spends most of his day thinking about hard science fiction concepts, Brin knows that if he actually makes it to Mars via the Mars One venture, he might not ever come back, but he's OK with that.

"I can say I have an ulterior motive," Brin said "I'd get a lot of writing done, and it might be memorable."

On a slightly more serious note, Brin also said that though he signed up for the selection process, he's not convinced the mission will ever actually happen.

"I give it a low probability of happening," Brin said, "and I don't consider it to be the most responsible thing I've ever seen."

The Mars One applicants so far range in age from 18 to 71, and the company will continue to accept applications through Aug. 31. After that, everyone who signed up faces a long screening process, including evaluation by expert panels and -- if all goes according to plan -- a reality TV show. Then comes the training, all while Mars One prepares and builds the technology necessary to keep people alive on the Martian surface. As Brin said, it's not a sure thing, but even if he never makes it Mars (or if he makes it to Mars and winds up the victim of faulty life support systems, or worse), he felt it was worth it to lend his name to the project, if only to get more people talking.

"You have to assume that it may not work, and that there will be a statue of you on Mars someday," he said. "I'm aware of the tradeoffs, and I'm willing to explore it further, but largely my main purpose is the conversation. We've got to be talking about how we can be a more exploratory people — a more interesting people, if you like."

As the application process so far has proven, Brin isn't alone in his thinking, and he thinks even if it's made clear to every single applicant that they could end up dying on another planet, many of them would still be up for the voyage.

"People who cannot imagine any sane person making that choice simply aren't envisioning the wide range of human diversity," Brin said. "Consider what I told my family. By the very earliest date that Mars One might launch, I expect to be a spry 75-year-old whose kids are already successfully launched, and who might spend a few years doing something truly remarkable."

What do you think? Would you be up for a voyage to another planet, even if it meant never coming back?

(Via NBC News)