75 Canadians still in running for possible one-way trip to Mars
Kendra Mangione, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, January 11, 2014 7:01AM EST
Dozens of Canadians have reached the next round of selections for a planned one-way ticket to space to set up a human colony on Mars.
Mars One, a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands, is looking to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet. It had a worldwide applicant pool of more than 200,000 eager space travellers to choose from.
About 8,243 applications were from Canadians and the organization whittled down the candidates at the end of December to just 1,058.
Of those, 75 Canadians made the cut, including 43 women and 32 men, most between the ages of 20 and 40.
Psychology graduate Alex Marion, 26, is one step closer to the possibility of being among the first humans to ever set foot on Mars.
Although he isn't sure why he made the short-list, Marion told CTV News Channel that Mars One has a list of attributes they're specifically looking for. An extensive application asked candidates to describe life experiences, submit resumes and make a video.
“I think what set me apart was my ability to draw upon the experiences I've had in 26 years to demonstrate those.”
The trip is one-way, which Marion said is “unfortunate, but at the same time, it's very pioneering. When people set forth to the new world, it was a one-way trip. You weren't coming back. Obviously crossing the ocean is quite a bit easier even back then than it will be going to Mars, but I think the excitement definitely overtakes that.”
“I was pretty thrilled. In fact, I could swear I smiled for over an hour. I literally could not help myself,” 21-year-old mechanical engineering student Tyler Reyno said in an interview with CTV Atlantic.
Though Reyno is skeptical the project will get the funding it needs to take off, he is confident in the future of space exploration. “If it isn't Mars One, it's certainly going to be some other company, if not my own,” he said.
Justin Semenoff, 35, told CTV Saskatoon the risks associated with the one-way ticket are worth it. “As an average person, you can go and do something extraordinary… It's very exciting.”
Space is a passion in his family, and the Canadian Forces combat engineer said most of his loved ones have been supportive.
“It's one of those necessities of people in general, to be able to push past what we know and try to attempt something that might not be necessarily attainable. And, why not?”
Zac Trolley, 31, is an engineer and has always had an interest in space travel.
“It comes down to the willingness to learn, the willingness to see adversity and overcome it, and keep that huge mission in mind and see it all the way to the end,” Trolley told CTV Calgary. “I think the most important thing that they saw in my application is that I'm serious about it. A lot of questions come up: would you really be willing to go, is it something you're really interested in? Yes. Yes it is. I'm willing to go, my family backs me up and I'm really excited to do that.”
The plan is for a crew of four to depart every two years starting in 2024, with the first group arriving in 2025.
Trolley said he has not met any of the other applicants but says the pool contains a diverse group of people who have certain skills.
“Mars, if something goes wrong…there's no emergency evacuation, there's no help coming, it's you and your team, the tools that you brought and the environment you're in and how best to use it, and that's what you have and that's what you need to survive,” said Trolley.
Some family members who may never see their loved ones again appear to have mixed feelings, however, if any Canadians are among those chosen to set up a human colony on Martian soil.
Quebecer Audrey Roy, a 19-year-old technical engineering student, told the Canadian Press it's always been her dream to travel in space.
There were tears of joy and sadness among family and friends when they found out she'd applied to Mars One.
“Most of them weren't happy about it because if I'm selected, they're not going to see me again, and that makes them sad and that makes me sad, too,” she said.
“It breaks my heart to actually leave them, but I've had a talk with them and they understand it is my dream since I was young.”
She would also have Internet access, Roy said, so she could send videos and voice messages back home.
Stephen Fenech, a Toronto-based director who's 45 and is single, told CTV News Channel he's seen a full range of reactions.
“I've seen one extreme where it's ‘That's so cool' and I've seen the other where it's ‘You're nuts, you know you're not coming back, this is a suicide mission.' I just take it all in stride,” he said.
Claude Gauthier, 60, a University of Moncton math and physics professor, told CTV Atlantic he was surprised he made the cut because of his age. When he was younger, he applied unsuccessfully three times to become a Canadian astronaut. He said his two daughters are supportive, but his wife is unsure.
“At the beginning, it was fun. Now it's become more serious. She's not very happy about that.”
Edmontonian Christy Foley, 32, and her 33-year-old husband, who have no children, both sent in applications. She was selected, and he wasn't.
“I'll miss him, but he's going to reapply,” the government worker told CTV Edmonton. “(Mars One's) message is very much ‘Don't give up, follow your dreams.'”
“Humanity has pretty much settled all of Earth. Unless we want to head to the oceans, space is the next step, and I want to be a part of that.”
Canada had the second largest number selected after the United States, where 297 candidates were chosen.
Candidates now have until mid-March to provide a health certificate from a doctor and regional selections will be made during a third round later this year.
With files from the Canadian Press, CTV News Channel, CTV Atlantic, CTV Calgary, CTV Edmonton and CTV Saskatoon