Last July I applied as a candidate for the Mars One Project, an audacious and unprecedented effort to privately fund a one-way human mission to the Red Planet. More than 200,000 people from more than 100 countries submitted initial applications, which were judged on the basis of the applicants’ resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust, and creativity.
On New Year’s Eve of this year, I learned that I was one of 1058 candidates chosen for Round Two, a process that involves a medical examination (basically a routine physical, already complete), additional interviews (yet to be scheduled), and additional evaluations as yet unspecified. And I’ve decided to go for it.
Obviously, I have a lot of questions—about the technological and logistical details of the mission; about the feasibility of the plans for funding and sustaining the project; and about Mars itself. This weblog is one way for me to start answering those questions for myself. I’ll be learning about planetology, orbital mechanics, hydroponics, astrobiology, and many more fields—and trying to summarize my findings in a clear way, not just for myself but for others who are interested (and, like me, inspired by the cause). So I welcome your questions, even as I’m trying to answer my own.
Because of its educational goals, the blog will be a kind of notebook. Each article will likely be incomplete in some way, a launching pad toward the next piece on a related subject. I will often be writing at the very limit of my understanding, and as a result I will sometimes get something blatantly (and perhaps hilariously) wrong. So be it.
The blog has other missions, too, not least to spread the word about Mars One. When I first heard about the project, it caught my imagination and wouldn’t let go, and I know that many others will feel the same way and seek to learn more.
Will the Mars One mission really happen? I don’t know, and it’s sometimes hard to hold the conflicting thoughts in my head at the same time: on the one hand, the desire to take it seriously; on the other, the knowledge that the audacity of the mission makes it unlikely to succeed.
A dear friend of mine recently helped me put the matter in proper perspective. He told me a story about an old soccer coach of his, decades ago, who would never let his team slack off during scrimmage, even though the games didn’t ‘count’. The coach told his players, “You practice like you play.”
So I don’t know whether Mars One will ever take us to Mars, but I do know that I’ll be taking my participation as seriously as possible for as long as possible. Because one day, human beings will set foot on Mars. And regardless of whether Mars One sends them there, the efforts we make and the conversations we have, now, as part of this project, will inform the decisions of those who ultimately do.