Mobile has been a happy home for me for many years but it can get a little stifling sometimes, particularly during long stretches of cold and dreary weather when I start craving a change of scenery and a larger perspective. I’m sure some of you can relate. Heck, if you watch the news enough it might seem like the entire planet is a bit depressing at times.
Have you ever had a day so bad you found yourself dreaming of packing up your ashtray, paddle game and remote control and just getting the heck out of here? What if I told you someday soon, there might be a way you can leave behind everything you’ve ever known and start a new life on a big red rock over a hundred million miles from Earth?
A longstanding human dream may become a reality sometime in the next decade when Dutch not-for-profit foundation Mars One plans to launch its mission to establish a permanent human colony on Mars. The plan is to start by sending supplies and exploratory vessels in the next few years. They hope to send the first four humans in the next decade, sending another group every two years until they’ve established a small village.
In April 2013 the group announced their Astronaut Selection Program, where they invited citizens from across the world to apply to join an elite team of what they hope will become the first humans to colonize our mysterious neighbor planet. In terms of qualifications, the group is looking for intelligent and creative applicants who are physically and mentally healthy and possess the key characteristics of resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, the ability to trust oneself and others and resourcefulness.
Once selected, the astronauts will undergo an extensive training program, which, naturally, is expected to be filmed for an upcoming reality television series. Eventually the first group will depart for their one-way trip to Mars, a long and grueling voyage of approximately seven months. It’s important to note there are no return trips home, so successful applicants will have to be sure they’re ready to say goodbye to everything and everyone they’ve ever known and that they possess the mental and emotional fortitude to endure profound loneliness and isolation.
Once on Mars, the astronauts will set up a carefully planned sustainable community where they will live out the remainder of their days. Residents of the colony will be able to communicate with families and friends by email, so hopefully the Internet service on Mars is more reliable than mine is when I’m trying to stream a movie on Netflix.
Mars One received over 200,000 applications globally and on Feb. 16 they announced the 100 finalists selected for further testing. The group of 50 men and 50 women includes 38 Americans, with the youngest candidate being 18 and the oldest a 60-year-old Canadian. The group will eventually be narrowed to six teams of four, which will take turns traveling to Mars in two-year intervals.
The private mission to colonize and explore Mars may prove an important step for mankind, as famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking insists the key to continued human survival is to eventually evacuate Earth and find another place to live. Hawking warns that in order to avoid extinction, we likely have less than 200 years to find another suitable home for our species.
It sounds like these intrepid explorers might be doing incredibly important work for their fellow humans, but the project also seems like a fantastic adventure. I’ll admit I was pretty intrigued and I’d apply in a heartbeat if I didn’t have a husband and children who would literally starve to death without me.
Don’t fret if you missed the original 2013 application deadline as additional opportunities to apply will arise in the coming years. In case you’re having trouble deciding if Mars is right for you, here are a few pros and cons of leaving Mobile.
One obvious advantage of Mars is that you won’t have to worry about those pesky Gulf Coast hurricanes every summer. However, Mars is known for massive dust storms, which can last up to a month and blanket the entire planet in a thick coat of dust roughly every five years.
A major disadvantage (depending on who you’re asking) to life on Mars is the inability to have children, at least until far more research is done. Scientists really aren’t sure whether a fetus would develop properly on Mars and even whether women would be fertile at all. It’s probably just as well. Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it’s cold as hell.
Speaking of cold, on Mars you won’t have to deal with Mobile’s scorching summer heat, but you will face average temperatures of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 30 degrees colder than Oymyakon, Russia, the coldest inhabited place on earth. It certainly ain’t Margaritaville, and Mobilians may be disheartened to learn shorts and flip-flops likely won’t cut it.
While our home in the southeastern United States is lush with vegetation and blessed with abundant water sources, the surface of Mars is dry and barren, free of geological features other than deserts, frozen ice caps and dramatic mountain peaks.
Here in Mobile our biggest impediment to fitness is our own gluttony and sloth but on the long trip to Mars you will face zero gravity conditions which can lead to a significant loss in muscle mass and bone density, even when mitigated by rigorous exercise. The gravity on Mars itself is about 38 percent that of Earth’s and scientists are currently unsure how this factor will affect long-term health.
Essentially you’d be a human guinea pig, testing things out so the rest of us can see how quickly you die. Pretty sweet deal, eh? Sign up next go around! And don’t forget to email!