Crisscrossing the galaxy a la Captain Kirk may sound heroic, but would you volunteer for a Star Trek-like voyage if you knew you could never come home?
In a special edition published in October, the Journal of Cosmology detailed how a human mission to Mars could be a reality in as little as 20 years. But the complexity, risk and cost of getting astronauts there and back have kept the idea firmly on the ground.
It's just a fanciful idea for now -- but the editors say they were stunned when more than 500 e-mail messages came from people around the world, volunteering to be the first.
Students, soldiers, law enforcement officers, nurses, and space enthusiasts young and old wrote in, saying they'd be happy to leave their lives on Earth for the chance to be pioneers. (The response was so great, in fact, that the journal announced Thursday that it would actively seek volunteers and supporters for a Mars mission. It encouraged the public to sign up on the journal's home page or e-mail them.)
"It's going to happen some way or another sometime. It may as well happen now. I don't see any sense in delaying it," said R.J. Musat, a 56-year-old computer operator at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio.
Among his self-described credentials: a familiarity with computers, the ability to execute high-tech tasks and a genius-level I.Q.
When asked why he would be willing to leave his son, family and friends behind, he said, "Christopher Columbus did it. It's a pioneering thing. ...Because it's there."
Scientist: Part of the Human Spirit Seeks Exploration, RiskIn an e-mail to the journal, an honorably discharged Navy veteran said he should be a crew member because, aside from his military background, he has never fathered a child and has no commitments on Earth he wouldn't be able to leave behind.
"Sign me up for the adventure of a lifetime!" he said.
Many who claimed no relevant training at all added their names to the list.
"I think I would be a great candidate because I could help people cope with the depression, I'm continuously optimistic and happy," wrote an 18-year-old man from Alaska.
one-way mission proposal, titled "To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars," is part of a book published by the journal that combines the work of more than 70 NASA scientists. "The Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet" is billed as a step-by-step "how-to" series on going to Mars.
"I do think there is still part of the human spirit that is willing to explore new places and take risks," said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, professor of earth sciences at Washington State University and co-author of the one-way mission proposal.
Not a Suicide Mission, but an Opportunity to Settle the Red Planet
In the proposal, Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies, a physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University, suggest sending four astronauts to Mars to stake out the first human outpost there.
Lana Tao, the editor of the Journal of Cosmology, said that when it first published the report, the journal did not solicit volunteers in any way, and never expected to receive a single message from a would-be explorer.
"When we first began receiving them, we thought they were not serious, that it was some type of joke," she told ABCNews.com in an e-mail. "Then they kept coming, and coming and it became clear that most of these men were extremely serious."
However, Tao did say that not all of the messages were written in earnest.
"Some were funny. We even received emails from women volunteering their husbands," she said.
This article credited in it's entirety to: One-Way Mars Mission: Would you Boldly Go? at ABC News/Technology