NEWS
05/05/2014 09:54 EDT | Updated 07/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Mars One shortlist includes 19-year-old B.C. woman

New Westminister, B.C. resident Paige Hunter has survived the latest step in the selection process to become, at 19,  the youngest candidate in the Mars One Project.

Hunter is one of 54 Canadians still on the list of 706 candidates who are vying to be among four astronauts leaving for Mars every two years starting in 2024.

The Mars One Project had an initial applicant pool of more than 200,000 people from 100 countries.

Each applicant had to pay a $40 entrance fee to the project which hopes to raise $6 billion over the next decade.

57 million kilometres is a long way from home with no guarantee of a return trip, but Hunter says so was North America in an earlier time.

"If you think about it, when people moved from Europe to the Americas, they didn't know if they were going to be able to come back. They just were exploring. That's what we're doing."

She says her parents have mixed reactions.

"My mom's definitely against it. I think there was talk of tranquilizing me or tying me down, but she means well and I totally understand where she's coming from," said Hunter smiling. "My dad's my climbing partner. I do high alpine climbing as a hobby and so for him it just seemed like another cool adventure and he was on board with it."

If she doesn't wind up going to Mars, Hunter says she does have a backup plan.

"I'm going to study international relations, politics and the French language, maybe work for the UN or WHO or the Red Cross," she said.

Hunter has been told the next step of the selection process involves a regional interview where she will be expected to demonstrate her knowledge, intelligence, adaptability and personality.

The Mars One project is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Landorp. The $6 billion project will use existing technology and is being funded through sponsors and private investors.

The plan is for a crew of four to depart every two years starting in 2024, with the first groups arriving in 2025.

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