THREE scientists shortlisted for a one-way mission to Mars say they would accept never seeing their friends and family face-to-face again if they were given the chance of finding extra-terrestrial life.

Dr Keith Evans, of Norton, near Stockton, Durham University doctorate student Hannah Earnshaw and astrophysicist Gillian Finnerty, of Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire are among 36 Britons hoping to help establish a human colony on the red planet from 2025.

The Northern Echo:

Loading article content

SUPPORTIVE FAMILY: Dr Keith Evans

Mars One, a privately-funded project set up in Holland, saw more than 202,000 people from around the world apply to be part of the mission.

The project’s leaders have announced a shortlist of 1,058 people, which will be whittled down to 24 Martian explorers, who will travel 34 million miles to the planet in crews of four.

Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp said: “We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications.

“In 1,000 years, everyone on Earth will still remember who the first humans on Mars were.”

He said an unmanned demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions will be sent to Mars from 2018 to establish a reliable living environment.

In an extensive training period, those selected to live on the colony will learn the skills they need on Mars and on their journey there.

Miss Finnerty, 21,who alongside the other candidates is set to undergo medical examinations and be interviewed in the coming weeks, said while her parents were “not thrilled” about her ambition, it would be similar to emigrating to Australia.

The British elite snowboarder said: “I want to do something important with my life to help with scientific knowledge and this is the most important thing anyone could do.

“I would hopefully be able to find out definitively if there ever has been life on Mars.”

Teesside physicist Dr Evans, originally from Norton, near Stockton, said if he was selected he would keep in touch with family and friends by sending emails and videos, and that his family had been very supportive of his ambition.

The 27-year-old said: “I’m capable of living by myself. I don’t think it’s as much of a big deal for me as it would be for other people.”

Astronomy student Hannah Earnshaw, whose studies include investigating black holes, said she was excited about the "blank canvas" of a new life on Mars.

Miss Earnshaw, 22, said: “Leaving behind friends and family is always going to be challenging.

"I think a Martian colony has so many benefits, from the development of new survival technologies to the social impact of people understanding a little more what it means to be living on the same planet by watching those on a different one.”