Not many people would leave their family, friends and the familiarities of this world in exchange for a new life on another planet. However, for some individuals this scenario is becoming a reality, and one that will be happening within the next ten years.
Mars One, according to their website, is a “not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.” Beginning in 2024, the foundation will send the first four settlers to Mars to begin the process of preparing for other groups of four that will arrive every two years.
The foundation opened the search for the first participants to the public in early 2013 and received over 200,000 applications for the mission. Since then, the foundation has chosen 100 of the 200,000 applicants for another round of reviewing. These 100 individuals are people from all walks of life: from those with PhDs to those who are unemployed, from 19-year-olds to 60-year-olds.
Junior Blake Paterson said the program seems intriguing, but the thought of leaving everything behind is daunting.
“I don’t think I would apply for the trip, mainly because it’s a one-way trip,” said Paterson, “I think it would be difficult to adapt to that.”
Sophomore Lana Bromling also noted how even though the idea seems exciting, there is too much that one would have to give up for the opportunity.
“I would consider it, but I wouldn’t actually do it,” said Bromling. “I’m too involved here. It’s home.”
Since the announcement of the 100 candidates, many are starting to ask more questions about the logistics of the mission. Issues such as living arrangements, procreation, medical facilities, and government have all been in question.
John Brown University psychology professor Dr. Kevin Simpson notes that the mission could be a positive impact on society, but only if it was executed precisely.
“Exploration and new advances in science require extreme risk-taking,” said Simpson, “I admire the courage to explore but I am also wary.”
In regard to the psychological effects of the humans’ transition to a foreign planet, Simpson also notes how scientists and engineers will be attune to “human performance factors,” or how the body and mind respond to conditions in space.
Many have asked the question whether inhabitants would be able to begin producing offspring to continue the growth of the population, after the first few crews have settled in on their new planet.
Aside from the physical implications of whether one would be able to conceive a child on Mars or not, Simpson notes that if one would succeed to do so, the child would be developmentally different from its Earthling peers.
“The social interactions we rely on, with thousands of people over our lifetime, intimately shape who we become. Take that away and replace it with a few, carefully selected people…” said Simpson.
“Even with psych testing for any vulnerability for mental illness you cannot predict how each person will deal with such unique isolation, and that will ultimately result in a very different kind of human development,” he said.
Bromling also said how she believes that many of the possible conflicts might stem from the change of human relations.
“I think being relational with one another and our sexual identities would definitely change” said Bromling. “Communication will have to be a key factor for things to operate smoothly.”
Aside from the possible negative outcomes, there are many positive attributes to the opportunity as well.
According to an article in Time Magazine, Sonia Van Mater is one of the Mars finalist in the latest round of selecting the group. Mater is married and has two stepsons but understands that this mission is great in the grand scheme of human exploration.
“Space exploration is worth a human life. Every astronaut that has ever flown has known the risks they were up against once they strapped into that ship. And there’s no guarantee that I won’t be crushed by a collapsing roof tomorrow or diagnosed with a terminal illness next year,” said Mater in Time Magazine.
“Some call this a suicide mission. I have no death wish. But it would be wonderful if my death could be part of something greater than just one individual,” Time reports.