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“What we would need is an eccentric billionaire,” Mr. Schulze-Makuch said. “There are people who have the money to put this into reality.”

Indeed, British tycoon Richard Branson, PayPal founder Elon Musk and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos are among the rich who already are involved in private space ventures.

Isolated humans in space have long been staple settings of science fiction movies, including “Robinson Crusoe on Mars,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and a flurry of recent movies such as “Solaris” and “Moon.” In many of the plots, lonely astronauts fall victim to computers, madness or aliens.

Psychological profiling and training of the astronauts, plus constant communication with Earth, would reduce debilitating mental strains, the two scientists said.

“They would in fact feel more connected to home than the early Antarctic explorers,” they write in their article.

The mental health of humans in space has been studied extensively. Depression can set in, people become irritated with one another, and sleep can be disrupted, studies have found. The knowledge that there is no quick return to Earth likely would make that worse.

Mr. Davies‘ research focuses on cosmology, quantum field theory and astrobiology. He was an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts.

Mr. Schulze-Makuch is the author of two books about life on other planets. His focus is eco-hydrogeology, which includes the study of water on planets and moons of our solar system and how those might serve as a habitat for microbial life.

The scientists contend that Mars has abundant resources to help the colonists become self-sufficient over time. They write that the colony should be next to a large ice cave, to provide shelter from radiation, plus water and oxygen.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm from NASA, Mr. Schulze-Makuch said he thinks many people would be willing to make the sacrifice.

He and Mr. Davies said a Mars base would offer humanity a “lifeboat” if Earth becomes uninhabitable.

“We are on a vulnerable planet,” Mr. Schulze-Makuch said. “Asteroid impact can threaten us, or a supernova explosion. If we want to survive as a species, we have to expand into the solar system and likely beyond.”