Mars One will be actually sending something to the Red Planet in the next three years, according to co-founder Bas Lansdorp.
The foundation, which has the ambitious goal of setting up a human settlement on Mars in 2023 despite not having any spacefaring experience so far, is aiming to send up an unmanned test flight by 2016.
Lansdorp told the International Space Commerce Summit in London that Mars One wants to send an as yet unidentified flying object*, "a small craft that will demonstrate the technologies we need for our human colony" and is looking for partners to help it get the mission off the ground, the BBC reported.
"If you have a reason to get something to Mars, get in touch with me," Lansdorp pitched to conference-goers.
"It could be a country that wants to do an experiment on Martian soil… I know the UK space agency has been interested in getting to Mars in the past. They could put something on our lander and get a payload there.”
"We also have consumer firms that are interested in becoming 'the first brand on Mars'," he claimed.
According to the foundation's website, the demonstration mission is planned for January 2016 and will take a communications satellite with it as well. The foundation says the satellite will have a data bandwidth around four times that of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and will enable 24/7 contact between the two planets.
Lansdorp said that more details on the demo would be released next month, when the lucky winners of the one-way tickets for the trip could also be announced.
Over 200,000 people have applied from all over the world for seats to the Red Planet, from which six groups of four people will eventually be chosen.
The foundation hopes to use that selection process as a way to raise funds for the project through a reality TV competition. Since the new 'nauts/colonists have to be telly-friendly, as well as having some skills and physical aptitude for the hellishly rigorous life they're choosing, they were required to send in videos explaining why they'd be a good choice.
Lansdorp said two of the contestants' videos in particular stood out for him, one in which someone made a Gangnam Style parody called Martian Style and another where a guy video-shopped himself into scenes from Star Wars. He asserted that Mars One's hefty ambition was financially possible given the revenues good TV can bring in.
"We estimate $6bn to get the first four people on Mars and $4bn for every further group that follows." he said. "It's a lot of money. But look at the broadcasting revenue from the Olympics in London - $4bn in three weeks. The world was watching. And I want the whole world to be involved in Mars One."
He also denied that the whole thing was any kind of stunt.
"Exploration is what we humans do. It inspires us to innovate. There are two times when humans really innovate - in exploration and in war. And I don't like war," he said. ®
Just take a moment to really appreciate the fact that if Mars One succeeds, mankind will have started its first offworld colony by building a community on Mars made up entirely of reality TV stars.
* Or, ahem, a UFO (Sub-Ed)