A group of people from around the world, including 33 Americans, are a big step closer to making a historic trip to Mars. The project is called Mars One, because the people who are selected will get a one-way ticket to the Red Planet. The technology does not exist to bring them back to earth, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.
Leila Zucker is a 46-year-old emergency room doctor at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and she is one of 100 finalists selected from more than 200,000 who applied for the trip.
“Why wouldn’t you want to go?” she asked.
The opportunity was organized by nonprofit group working to establish the first human habitat on Mars by 2024. For a space geek like Zucker, it’s the ultimate one-way ticket. Despite a very happy life on Earth, Zucker is ready to sacrifice everything, including her husband, job and house.
So why would she give it all up?
“If I’m the first person to set foot on Mars, a thousand years from now, when we’re a multi-planet species because I’ve
inspired us to become so, everyone will know who I was,” Zucker explained.
The contenders, selected from all over the world, are already getting to know each other. They are preparing for an up to eight-month journey through space, and potentially the rest of their lives, in very close quarters.
Ryan MacDonald is a physics Masters student at the University of Oxford in England who hopes to leave a legacy of his own.
“For me it’s so much more than just the science. I want to inspire a new generation, just like the Apollo moon landings did,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald has Skyped into classrooms around the globe to get young people excited about the project. Before anyone steps on Mars, the project has to clear some out-of-this-world hurdles. Obstacles include physical and technical training for the final group of amateur astronauts, and raising an estimated $6 billion to fund the first four travelers to a planet some 200 million miles away.
To pay for the project, Mars One plans to broadcast the entire process on a reality TV show, starting as early as this fall. “The best way to describe what Mars One will be, ’cause it’s something that has never been tried before, is that it’s something about halfway between Big Brother and NASA TV,” MacDonald said.
If the show is a success, the group will launch a series of unmanned supply missions over the next seven years to identify a settlement location and build basic living units. Four initial settlers will depart in 2024. Zucker said she’s ready for the challenge of living on Mars.
“Day to day, you’re going to be trying to stay alive. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of tasks of, ‘Do you have enough oxygen? Do you have enough water? Are all the seals airtight?’ There’s going to be a lot of drudgery,” Zucker said. Given all the obstacles, her biggest fear is that it won’t happen. “This is about humanity, this is about the human race, and human survival. If I don’t go and someone else goes, fantastic, but I’m petrified that we won’t go,” Zucker said. She sees the Mars One contestants as pioneers and said she is ready to fill that role. “I couldn’t think of a single thing that would make me change my mind. I’m going and not coming back,” she said. Zucker also told CBS News that if she is selected there are two things she will really miss about Earth, her husband of 22 years and her favorite food, hamburgers.