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4 Minnesotans in running for one-way trip to Mars

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No, this story isn't a work of science fiction.

The Pioneer Press reports four Minnesotans are among 1,058 other people who have been named semifinalists in a Netherlands-based nonprofit organization's program that aims to send volunteers to Mars starting 10 years from now.

Jackson Kisling of Woodbury, Paul Larson of New Hope, Chad Schilling of Eden Prairie and Dr. Katherine Johnson of Excelsior are all in the running to take part in the Mars One program.

There is a catch, though: If they go, they're not coming back. The mission is to establish a colony on the red planet.

Kisling told the Pioneer Press that he strongly believes "space exploration is the most important thing we will do this century, or not do."

The program is billed as "The Next Giant Leap For Mankind" on the Mars One website. The Pioneer Press said the cost is estimated between $4 billion to $10 billion, and would be paid by advertising and fees earned from event, which would be televised as a prolonged reality show.

The Minnesotans are among 200,000 people worldwide who paid $35 just to apply.

The program is currently raising money to privately send an unmanned Mars Lander and Satellite mission to the Red Planet in 2018.

Space.com has artistic renderings of the Mars One mission and photos of people connected with the program.

The applicants for Mars One are unique in that they're mostly regular people, and not scientists or Air Force pilots who are vying to become NASA astronauts. The only qualification for applicants was that they had to be at least 18 years old.

CBS News says 297 semifinalists hail from the U.S., while 75 come from Canada. India has 62 semifinalist and Russia has 52. In all, Mars One is said to be looking at semifinalists from 107 different countries.

The Los Angeles Times says the list of 1,058 semifinalists will be whittled down over the next two years, as applicants undergo physical and emotional tests, as well as "rigorous simulations."

The program hopes to narrow the field to 40 in the next four years, the Times said, and those people will begin training for their eventual trip to Mars.

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