Dutch company Mars-One says it's won enough sponsorship money to create a reality TV show which it hopes will in turn fund a manned trip to Mars.
The company hopes to use robots to build a habitable outpost between 2016 and 2020, and to land the first humans three years later. The project will need only existing technologies, it says.
"Receipt of initial sponsorship marks the next step to humans setting foot on Mars," says Bas Lansdorp, founder and President of Mars-One.
"A little more than a year ago we embarked down this path, calling upon industry experts to share in our bold dream. Today, we have moved from a technical plan into the first stage of funding, giving our dream a foundation in reality."
Self-funded for the prior eighteen months, Mars-One says it's already completed the initial technical development. Late this year and early next, it will fill out its technical and management staff. The new sponsorship funds will be used mainly to finance conceptual design studies provided by aerospace suppliers.
What really sets the project apart from the rest is the way the company hopes to raise the necessary $6 billion it reckons it needs to put the first people on Mars.
It plans to start selecting a 40-strong potential crew next year, and televise the whole procedure. They'll need to be rather more committed than your average Big Brother participant: there are no plans to bring the settlers back.
"This project may sound fantastic, but bright enthusiastic minds are working on realizing this dream," says Aart Veldhuizen, notary at one of the sponsors, VBC Notarissen. "VBC Notarissen is proud that we can contribute to this ambitious plan."