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Duke University senior among finalists chosen to start colony on Mars

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DURHAM, N.C. -- A Duke University student is one step closer to getting a one-way trip to Mars.

Laurel Kaye, a senior at Duke, is one of the 100 finalists in the running for the mission sponsored by Mars One.

It may be a scary thought for some, but for Kaye, the chance to go to Mars is a lifelong dream.

"My first word was moon," Kaye said. "And after that it was bird. I have just always been fascinated by looking up at the sky."

More than 200,000 people applied from all over the world. To get to the final round, Kaye said she had to go through a series of interviews.

"We had to know about Mars, we had to know all about the history of missions, the orbiters, the landers, the rovers," Kaye said.

Eventually, 24 will be selected for the missions to Mars, tasked with establishing a colony there for humans. Mars One organizers anticipate the first manned mission in 2024, but will first need to raise six billion dollars.

"I'm not very convinced that it'll happen exactly along the same timeline, but I do think that within my lifetime, within the next couple decades, I think we will be on Mars," Kaye said. "And that, to me, is very exciting."

Kaye said her parents and four siblings are excited but nervous about the prospect of her going to Mars.

"My mom is pretty concerned," Kaye said. "She wants to be sure that I'm going to be safe, and I think that's really important and the reaction a mother should have. I want to be safe, too."

Kaye said friends, understandably so, have a lot of questions about the mission.

"We will be able to video message, email, text, Snapchat, so we will be able to stay in pretty constant communication with earth," Kaye said.

Kaye said she's most excited about the mission because it would enable her to advance science and be on the front lines of major discovery.

"It would be a great global initiative, to push humans further than we ever have before," Kaye said. "By probing at Mars, we could also learn a lot about earth."

Kaye studies physics at Duke. She plans to get her doctorate and hopes to continue physics and medical research on Mars.

For more information about Kaye, visit her profile on the Mars One website.