NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Matt Newville and Cole Leonard are different in many ways – Newville is a real estate agent, Leonard is a government employee.
But one thing the two Dallas men have in common is that they both have their head in the clouds, in fact way past the clouds… all the way to Mars.
If you think this story is beginning to sound strange, you're on the right track.
Newville and Leonard want to be part of a program to send earthlings to Mars and colonize it. That would include a one-way space trip from Earth to Mars that, at their shortest distance in orbit, would still entail an estimated 34.8 million miles.
And even that would be a relatively short commute -- taking a mere 281 days at current space travel speed – compared to the estimated 250-million-mile trek that would be required when Earth and Mars are at their greatest distance in orbit.
Newville and Leonard promise they are serious.
"It's really that human exploration element that I definitely want to be a part of," Leonard told CBS 11 News. Newville added: "We're putting ourselves out there to be on the frontier."
The two North Texas men are among 200,000 people throughout the world who signed up to participate in "Mars One," a non-profit company in the Netherlands which hopes to colonize Mars by 2025.
The list of astronaut-wannabes has been culled down to 715, with Newville and Cole still in the running. They hope to eventually be among the 24 who get to go, each in groups of four.
Mars One hopes to launch the first trip in 2024, at an estimated cost of $6 billion, not your average bus fare. But the group hopes to raise money through corporate sponsorships, with the final selection process played out in a reality show.
Scientists have long believed that Mars may be inhabitable by earthlings, but only with protective clothing and other apparatus to cope with harsh conditions, including an extremely cold and dry climate, a lack of oxygen and high UV radiation.
"The technology is currently here, so we will send them to Mars," said Norbert Kraft, medical director at Mars One, adding that each space traveler will receive several years of training before taking the trip
This country's space agency, NASA, also is planning human travels to Mars in the future. "It is feasible…" said Michelle Gates, a senior technical advisor at NASA.
But unlike Mars One, the space agency plans to bring its astronauts back.
Newville and Leonard say they have reckoned with the idea of going to Mars – and staying there for the rest of their lives.
"It is ultimately a mortal venture, but not a futile one," said Leonard, adding, "Yes, we're not coming back. But I'm an optimist."
Newville says he has his family's support, "because it's a passion of mine. However, they do know the consequence."
Leonard, meanwhile, said his mother and brother want him to keep his feet firmly planted on this planet.
Whether they remain earthlings, or one day become resident Martians, a friendship has taken off – like a rocket ship – between Leonard and Newville.
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