10 Middle Easterners muscling for a seat on the mission to Mars!

Nearly a quarter million people (202,586 to be precise) have applied for a one-way ticket to Mars, with candidates from the Middle East making serious headway in the race to become a modern-day Martian!

The flight won’t launch for another 11 years, but competition for those four first seats is fierce. (You have far better odds of being hit with lightning — estimated as a chance of one in 3,000 over your lifetime!)

Mars One is the inspired (or insane?) global initiative to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet. An unmanned mission is scheduled to depart in 2020, with the first human crew starting its one-way journey in 2026. Subsequent crews will depart every 26 months, each with new research and development tasks. That’s a lot of people to pick, and the screening process is arduous.

The third selection round has concluded, narrowing the field to 100 hopefuls. “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff,” said Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of Mars One.

What further challenges will these candidates face? Remaining selection rounds will focus on creating teams that can endure all the hardships of a permanent Mars settlement — emphasis on “permanent.” They’ll be subjected to a battery of psychological and physical testing and trained in an earth-bound replica of the Mars Outpost.

Candidates who were not selected to continue will have a chance to reapply this year in a new application round. Meet ten would-be space pioneers from the Middle East!

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A toy bear, left by a friend who moved away, sits with Israeli Elad Eisen in his video. “I couldn’t let that poor teddy wander Tel Aviv. I promised I would never leave it alone. This is why he’ll go to Mars, we’re doing it together.” He’s hopeful that by the time the mission happens, technology will have evolved so they can return to Earth.

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Sadeqh Modarresi is an irrepressibly upbeat biologist! The 30-year-old Iranian says,”I think people have to pursue their interests and never give up. I am so optimistic and excited about this mission! Mankind is showing strong will in achieving superior goals as a superior species.” He also plays a mean table tennis.

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  Iraqi Najeeb Waleed is a computer engineer and software developer currently pursuing a PhD degree. When not at school, the 38-year-old likes to learn more about himself, the world and humanity in general. And, of course, space.

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Saeed Qandehari is a physicist with two master’s degrees in politics. The 34-year-old Iranian lives in New Zealand and describes himself as a specialist in international affairs and human rights. He’s a talented handyman, can farm and hunt, and is skilled at “hijama” — the Persian traditional medicine of blood-letting!

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Israeli Jonathan Vasquez is motivated by his own desire to advance mankind, “so that the next generation will not experience the same pain and hardships.” The one-way ticket doesn’t scare him: “It inspires me to know that my fellow astronauts would be as dedicated as I am,” he says.

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  Iraqi Dina Masodi is a computer scientist now living in America. When she left her family in Iraq, she knew it was forever. She feels it would be the same experience as going to Mars. Asked if she thinks a person has to be crazy to agree to go to Mars, she replied, “It’s only as crazy as getting married, having kids and dying.”

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Israeli Nadav Neuman sees Earth racing to extinction. “Unless we find a new place to settle — we can say bye to the human race,” he told Ynetnews. And like the others, he’s unfazed by the idea of leaving. “I have loved ones here, but as the possibilities of space travel improves, we could see each other whenever we want,” he said.

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 “I would be crazy not to be afraid, but I think that all decisions worth making are scary,” Israeli Yair Maimon said. He thinks that making a conscious decision to leave everything you love behind is the most intimidating decision a person could make, but one that’s necessary in order to answer, “What next?”

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  Elaheh Nouri is a 22-year-old Iranian architecture student who says she “fell in love” with cosmology at age 16. She views Mars One as her opportunity to find her important purpose in life, a dream for herself that will be useful for all mankind. Her hobbies include learning about astronomy, jumping from heights, and playing the harmonica.

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32-year-old Egyptian Mohammed Sallam was an IT trainee for six months, a sports marketer for six years, and is now a financial planner. “I’ve been trying to find what I really want to do with my life, but as you can see it just did not add up,” he said in his bio. As a kid, he dreamed of being an astronaut, so why not go back to that?