20,000 people have already applied for the one-way mission to Mars

In the first three days of accepting applications, the Mars One project has received a whopping 20,000 applications, with more than 600 coming from China alone. The project plans to send a select group of colonists to the Red Planet for permanent settlement — with permanent being the key word.

The Dutch aerospace project, which is aiming to put four humans on Mars by 2023, started accepting applications and audition tapes early last week. Co-founder Bas Lansdorp is hoping to receive anywhere from 500,000 to a million sign-ups — and if the first three days were of any indication, that seems entirely plausible. There is an application fee (the amount varies according to a country's per capita GDP), with the proceeds paying for the ongoing selection process and technology studies.

The final stage of the process will involve a short-list of 24 to 40 fully-trained candidates, with the final group being selected by a TV audience.

In regards to Chinese enthusiasm, China Daily reports:

Lansdorp said Mars One chose Shanghai as the second stop for the application press conference after New York because he believes many Chinese, including youngsters, are very interested in becoming astronauts, especially as the country already has its own astronauts.

Ma Qing, a 39-year-old bookseller, said, "I think the chance to be part of the project is a cool way for me to change a dull daily life. Besides, the air on Mars must be much cleaner and easier to breathe."

But Chang Tianxing, a space-lover from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said, "I think such a task is only suitable for senior, experienced astronauts. Exploring life on Mars, with everything starting from scratch, is mission impossible for us."