This Singaporean wants one-way ticket to Mars

Handout photo obtained on June 21, 2012 from Mars One shows an artist's impression of a capsule landing on Mars. NASA and private sector experts now agree that a man or woman could be sent on a mission to Mars over the next 20 years, despite huge challenges

A 53-year-old Singaporean is on a mission to Mars.

He is among 78,000 so far (and counting) to have applied to leave Earth forever and seek a new life on the Red Planet when a space mission is launched in 2023.

Known simply as "Robinson" on his profile page, his one-minute video application is one of thousands that have been submitted to the Mars One website. [See his video application here]

But here's the touching twist -- he says he was motivated to apply since his "beloved" wife passed away a year ago, and that although he has three kids, all three would have grown up by 2023.

Recognising that his age may put him at a disadvantage, he doesn't want to be alone and wants to continue living a meaningful life for himself and mankind even in his twilight years.

In his description profile, he said "space traveling has always been my dream" and lists being able to complete a full marathon run within five hours.

The worldwide search to become the first to set up a human colony on Mars is being conducted by non-profit organization Mars One. Its application process opened on April 22 and closes at the start of August.

As part of a Dutch televised reality show, the Mars One organisation aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony, with more astronauts arriving every two years thereafter.

Anyone at least 18 years of age can apply by submitting a one-minute video explaining his or her motivation to become a Red Planet settler.

When the application process closes, reviewers will begin a tough selection process and by 2015, a pool will be whittled down to a total of 28 to 40 candidates, officials said.

This core group will be split into groups of four, which will train for their one-way Mars mission for about seven years. Finally, an audience vote will pick one of these groups to be humanity's first visitors to the Red Planet.

So far, Mars One has received applications from more than 120 countries, officials said.

The United States leads the way with 17,324, followed by China (10,241) and the United Kingdom (3,581). Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and India round out the top 10.

The program to land humans on Mars is gathering pace and Mars One is not alone -- US space agency NASA and President Barack Obama have also made it a priority.

"A human mission to Mars is a priority, and our entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said last month.

"We're developing today the technologies needed to send humans to Mars in the 2030s."

Going boldly where no one has gone before is now no empty boast.

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